35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
35. Quis nos dirimet a dilectione Christi? tribulatio, an angustia, an persequutio, an fames, an nuditas, an periculum, an gladius?
36. As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
36. Quemadmodum scriptum est, Quod propter te morimur quotidie, reputati sumus tanquam oves mactationi destinatæ:
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
37. Sed in iis omnibus supervincimus per eum qui dilexit nos.
35. Who shall separate us, etc. The conviction of safety is now more widely extended, even to lower things; for he who is persuaded of God's kindness towards him, is able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. These usually harass men in no small degree, and for various reasons, -- because they interpret them as tokens of God's wrath, or think themselves to be forsaken by God, or see no end to them, or neglect to meditate on a better life, or for other similar reasons; but when the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm, and quietly rests. But the import of the words is, -- That whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in this faith, -- that God, who once in his love embraced us, never ceases to care for us. For he does not simply say that there is nothing which can tear God away from his love to us; but he means, that the knowledge and lively sense of the love which he testifies to us is so vigorous in our hearts, that it always shines in the darkness of afflictions: for as clouds, though they obscure the clear brightness of the sun, do not yet wholly deprive us of its light; so God, in adversities, sends forth through the darkness the rays of his favor, lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair; nay, our faith, supported by God's promises as by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all the intervening obstacles. It is indeed true, that adversities are tokens of God's wrath, when viewed in themselves; but when pardon and reconciliation precede, we ought to be assured that God, though he chastises us, yet never forgets his mercy: he indeed thus reminds us of what we have deserved; but he no less testifies, that our salvation is an object of his care, while he leads us to repentance.
But he calls it the love of Christ, and for this reason, -- because the Father has in a manner opened his compassions to us in him. As then the love of God is not to be sought out of Christ, Paul rightly directs to him our attention, so that our faith may behold, in the rays of Christ's favor, the serene countenance of the Father. The meaning is, -- that in no adversities ought our confidence to be shaken as to this truth -- that when God is propitious, nothing can be adverse to us. Some take this love in a passive sense, for that by which he is loved by us, as though Paul would have us armed with invincible courage but this comment may be easily disproved by the whole tenor of Paul's reasoning; and Paul himself will presently remove all doubt by defining more clearly what this love is.
Tribulation, or distress, or persecution? etc. The pronoun masculine which he used at the beginning of the verse, contains a hidden power: for when he might have adopted the neuter gender and said -- |What shall separate us?| etc., he preferred ascribing personality to things without life, and for this end, -- that he might send forth with us into the contest as many champions as there are of temptations to try our faith.
But these three things have this difference: tribulation includes every kind of trouble or evil; distress is an inward feeling, when difficulties reduce us to such an extremity, so that we know not what course to pursue. Such was the anxiety of Abraham and of Lot, when one was constrained to expose his wife to the danger of prostitution, and the other, his daughters; for being brought to straits and being perplexed, they found no way of escape. Persecution properly denotes the tyrannical violence by which the children of God were undeservedly harassed by the ungodly. Now though Paul denies in 2 Corinthians 4:8, that the children of God are reduced to straits, stenochoreisthai, he does not yet disagree with himself; for he does not simply make them to be exempt from anxious solicitude, but he means that they are delivered from it, as also the examples of Abraham and Lot testify.
36. As it is written, etc. This testimony adds no small weight to the subject; for he intimates, that the dread of death is so far from being a reason to us for falling away, that it has been almost ever the lot of God's servants to have death as it were present before their eyes. It is indeed probable, that in that Psalm the miserable oppression of the people under the tyranny of Antiochus is described; for it is expressly said, that the worshippers of God were cruelly treated, for no other reason but through hatred to true religion. There is also added a remarkable protestation, that they had not departed from the covenant of God; which Paul, I think, had especially in view. It is no objection that the saints there complain of a calamity which then unusually pressed on them; for since they show, that they were oppressed with so many evils, having before testified their innocence, an argument is hence fitly drawn, that it is no new thing for the Lord to permit his saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly. But this is not done except for their good; for the Scripture teaches us, that it is alien to the righteousness of God to destroy the just with the wicked, (Genesis 18:23); but that, on the contrary, it is meet for him to requite affliction to those who afflict, and rest to those who are afflicted. (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 9.) And then they affirm that they suffer for the Lord; and Christ pronounces them blessed who suffer for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10.) By saying that they died daily, they intimated that death was so suspended over them, that their life differed but little from death.
37. We do more than conquer, etc.; that is, we always struggle and emerge. I have retained the word used by Paul, though not commonly used by the Latins. It indeed sometimes happens that the faithful seem to succumb and to lie forlorn; and thus the Lord not only tries, but also humbles them. This issue is however given to them, -- that they obtain the victory.
That they might at the same time remember whence this invincible power proceeds, he again repeats what he had said before: for he not only teaches us that God, because he loves us, supports us by his hand; but he also confirms the same truth by mentioning the love of Christ. And this one sentence sufficiently proves, that the Apostle speaks not here of the fervency of that love which we have towards God, but of the paternal kindness of God and of Christ towards us, the assurance of which, being thoroughly fixed in our hearts, will always draw us from the gates of hell into the light of life, and will sufficiently avail for our support.