There are at least two ways that a passage of Scripture can be profoundly life-altering. One is that there comes a time when it penetrates into your soul so unusually and decisively that from that moment on, you are permanently profoundly altered. That’s what happened, for example, to Jonathan Edwards when 1 Timothy 1:17 penetrated deeply into his soul in the spring of 1721 when he was seventeen-years-old:
The first that I remember that ever I found any thing of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused thro’ it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. (“Personal Narrative”)
The second way that a passage of Scripture can be profoundly life-altering is that it penetrates into your soul not in such a way that the change is wrought from that moment on, but in such a way that the text itself is so firmly implanted in your soul that it becomes a lifelong, living agent of practical, life-altering power.
And that’s the way Romans 8:32 came into my life in a class on Romans 1–8 with Daniel Fuller when I was in seminary. Of all the places in the Bible that provide a solid place to stand when all around you is shaking, this has been my foundation stone more than any other. Romans 8:32:
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?
A Summary of Glory-Laden Logic
And it came not in isolation, but as a quintessential summary of the argument of Romans 1–8. I have called it the solid logic of heaven. There are other summaries of this glory-laden logic in Romans:
“Nothing we do can make us not guilty or undeserving of wrath — but God can save us.”
Since the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, therefore the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16–17).
Since we have now been justified by his blood, therefore much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).
Since while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, therefore much more shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).
Since grace reigns through righteousness, therefore it leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).
Since God foreknew and predestined and called and justified us, therefore he most assuredly will glorify us (Romans 8:29–30).
Since God has shown himself to be for us, therefore no one can successfully oppose us. (Romans 8:31).
Since God is the one who justifies, therefore no one can successfully bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33–34).
Since Christ is the one who died and rose and intercedes for us, therefore no one can condemn us (Romans 8:34).
But none of these summaries of the solid logic of heaven is as sweeping and as focused and as ultimate as Romans 8:32: Since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, therefore, he will most certainly give us all things with him.
From Greater to Lesser
This solid logic of heaven is an argument from the greater to the lesser. We call it an a fortiori argument: “from the stronger”. If strength or will has been exerted to accomplish something hard, then surely that strength or will accomplish something easier. So suppose you say to your child, “Please run next door and ask Mr. Smith if we can borrow his pliers,” and your child says, “But what if Mr. Smith doesn’t want us to borrow his pliers?” Your a fortiori argument to him might be: “Yesterday, Mr. Smith was happy to let me borrow his car all day long. If he was happy for me to borrow his car, he’ll be very willing for us to borrow his pliers.”
Loaning your car is a greater sacrifice than loaning pliers. Therefore it is harder to loan your car than to loan your pliers. If he was inclined to do the harder thing, then he will be inclined to do the easier thing. That’s the way we use a fortiori arguments.
So Paul says, God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. That’s the harder thing. Therefore, he will most certainly give us all things with him. That’s the easier thing.
I had read that all my life. But here I was, age 23 (if I recall the semester accurately) and for the first time, this logic — this God-inspired logic, this holy, heavenly, glorious, inexhaustible logic — penetrated into my soul and implanted itself so that it became a lifelong, living agent of practical, life-altering power. I’ll try to show why in a moment. But first ponder the content of the two halves of this verse.
Our Greatest Obstacle
What is the greatest obstacle between you in your sin and you with every need met, and every enemy subdued, and every desire satisfied with eternal and ever-increasing happiness in the presence of God? My guess is that we would ordinarily answer: The two biggest obstacles between me in sin and me in glory is my guilt and God’s wrath. I am guilty and God is angry at me in my guilt. Which is true. If I am to move from God-condemned sinner to God-glorified saint, these two obstacles have to be overcome. And they can only be overcome by God, not me. My fate is sealed. I am guilty. I am deserving of wrath. Nothing I can do can make me not guilty or undeserving of wrath.
“It is certain that God will find it very easy to give us all things with him.”
But Romans 8:32 shows us that these are not the biggest obstacle in the way of my salvation. Instead, God’s love for his Son is the greatest obstacle to my salvation. Since he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, therefore certainly he will also with him graciously give us all things.
In other words, since he did the hardest thing — since he did not spare his own Son — therefore, it is certain that God will find it very easy to give us all things with him. Paul expects us to feel the massive tension between the phrase, “his own Son” and the phrase “he did not spare him.”
God’s Love for His Son
When Paul calls Jesus God’s “own Son,” the point is that there are no others, and he is infinitely precious to the Father. Twice while Jesus was on earth God said, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:7; 17:5). In Colossians 1:13 Paul calls him “the Son of his [God’s] love.” Jesus himself told the parable of the tenants in which the master’s servants were beaten and killed when they came to collect the fruit. Then Jesus said, “He had still one other, a beloved son” (Mark 12:6). One Son is all the Father had. And he loved him infinitely.
And the point of Romans 8:32 is that this love of God for his one and only Son was like a massive Mount-Everest obstacle standing between God and our salvation. Here was an obstacle almost insurmountable.
Could God, would God, overcome his cherishing, admiring, treasuring, white-hot, infinite, affectionate bond with his Son and hand him over to be lied about and betrayed and denied and abandoned and mocked and flogged and beaten and spit on and nailed to a cross and pierced with a sword like an animal being butchered and hung up on a rack? Would he really do that? If he would, then we could know with full certainty that whatever goal he was pursuing in overcoming that obstacle could never fail. There could be no greater obstacle. So whatever he was pursuing, is as good as done.
How the Obstacle Was Overcome
And in fact, Romans 8:32 says, God did not spare him. He did give him up. He did hand him over to the worst possible suffering.
The Bible says Judas handed him over (Mark 3:19), and Pilate handed him over (Mark 15:15), and Herod and the Jewish people and the Gentiles handed him over (Acts 4:27-28), and we handed him over (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24). It even says Jesus handed himself over (John 10:17; 19:30).
But Paul is saying the ultimate thing here in verse 32. In and behind and beneath and through all these human acts, God was handing his Son to death. “This Jesus, [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). In Judas and Pilate and Herod and the crowds and the Gentile soldiers and our sin and Jesus’s lamblike submission, God himself handed over his Son. Nothing greater has ever happened. Or ever will.
My sin is not the ultimate obstacle to my salvation, because what makes my sin sinful is that it devalues the all-satisfying glory of the Father and the Son and the infinite love between them. God’s wrath is not the ultimate obstacle to my salvation, because that wrath is a holy reflex of God’s righteousness, and the essence of his righteousness is that he infinitely values what is infinitely valuable, namely, his own Son. No, the ultimate obstacle to my salvation is God’s infinite love for his own Son. His infinite cherishing, admiring, treasuring, white-hot affection for the beauty and greatness of his Son. This is the ultimate obstacle he overcame when he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.
What then shall we say? We will say that the glorious logic of heaven holds. Since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, therefore, he will most certainly give us all things with him.
Therefore, all things will work together for our good.
Therefore, we will be conformed to the image of his Son.
Therefore, we will be glorified.
Therefore, no one can successfully be against us.
Therefore, no charge shall stick against God’s elect.
Therefore, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Therefore, in tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword we are more than conquerors.
Therefore, 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.
A Cluster of Promises
Now here is how it has worked for forty years. When God promises in Romans 8:32, “therefore he will most certainly with him graciously give us all things,” among those “all things” are all the promises of God in the Bible for his elect. “All the promises of God are Yes in him.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 is based squarely on the solid logic of heaven in Romans 8:32. Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, therefore, all the promises of God are Yes in him.
“God himself handed over his Son. Nothing greater has ever happened. Or ever will.”
And among those promises guaranteed by the solid logic of heaven is this cluster: I will be with you to the end of the age. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will hold you up by my righteous right hand (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 41:10).
With that cluster of promises resting firmly on the solid logic of heaven in Romans 8:32 I have fought almost all my battles against fear for the last forty years — thousands of them. From preaching that first sermon in the Fuller chapel, to flying to Germany when I didn’t know any German, to taking my oral exams in a foreign language, to leaving academia behind and becoming a pastor with almost no experience, to going late at night with Tom Steller to deliver a demon-possessed woman, to hearing false prophesies pronounced over me about the death of my wife, to visiting church members bitterly angry with me, to witnessing for Christ on the street, to laying down the leadership of Bethlehem after 32 years and walking into an unknown chapter.
I have fought the fight against fear thousands of times in my life by listening to the voice of God say to me personally: “I did not spare my own Son; therefore, my promise to you cannot fail. I will help you. Go.” And after forty years I bear witness it has never failed. And it never will. The logic of heaven holds:
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?