Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Old family members listen to conversations and hear of the griefs of young couples who are the age of their grandchildren. They suddenly pipe up; “I wish it were happening to me rather than to them. I have lived a long life and they are so young. I wish I could spare them from that pain.” Parents watch with anguish their own children as they endure chemo-therapy. They’d take their place in the twinkling of an eye. Many of us would spare the ones we love from the pain that they’re having to endure. We’d willingly suffer it in their place.
- GOD DID NOT SPARE HIS OWN SON.
It is very plain and tight, stark monosyallabic words; “He” the apostle writes, and “his own Son.” Here are the echoes of the most well known verse in the Bible which speaks of God so loving the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Just two persons are involved in these opening words, the eternal Father and the eternal Son. John writes that the Father gave the Son. Paul says it negatively at first; the Father did not spare his own Son.
i] Consider the nature of the one who was not spared. We can understand God not sparing the world of Noah’s day because it was a world where every imagination of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually. And we can understand Paul speaking of God not sparing the natural branches but delivering them into Babylonian exile. We are not perplexed at God sparing not the angels who sinned when they rebelled against God but casting them into hell. But here Paul speaks of God not sparing Jesus Christ the Son of God. This was the one of whom God said, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Dearly, dearly did God love him. It was an infinite and eternal love that centring on his Son. There was no more beloved object in heaven or earth than God’s own Son.
If it was his Son then sonship means equality doesn’t it? Everything a father has his son also has. A son is not 95 percent human is he, any more than a bed-ridden, senile centenarian is no longer 100% human? A son doesn’t have 95 percent of a soul does he? He is not an ‘almost human being’ is he? He is as much a human being as his father. All the acorns of intelligence and affections and self-control are there as well as the graces and virtues and personhood of a man. They are there in the child as they are there in the father and in the decrepit old man, not a high percentage of them, but those identifying marks of humanity are all there. A father and his son are equally human beings. God the Father and God the Son are equally divine. They are both the one true and living God. The Son is not a lesser being to the Father, not some mere cupid; they are equal in power and glory.
Remember one occasion when Jesus spoke to the Jews saying to them, “‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” We are told of the response this engendered in their hearing, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:17&18). Jesus was stating his own equality with God when he claimed to be the Son of God. “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.’ But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom’” (Hebs. 1:5-8).
On one unforgettable occasion in the lifetime of the patriarch Abraham – he who had waited many years to have his own son – he was given a horrific test by Jehovah. He was commanded, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest . . . and offer him . . . for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:2). It was made transparently plain to Abraham what he had to do. God knew exactly what he was asking from the old man. He had one son alone with his wife Sarah; Isaac was the promised child through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, the one through whom the seed of the woman, the Messiah, would be born and the serpent’s head be crushed. Dearest, darling Isaac was the son of his old age, and yet Abraham was told not to spare him. God watched and admired Abraham’s willingness to do what God had told him. God commended him for not sparing his own son; “Thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:16). God himself did not spare his Son, his only Son Jesus, whom he loved. There was never a more loving Father, but he did not spare him. While God intervened to prevent the knife in Abraham’s hand cutting his son’s throat, God did not stop the process that took his Son to the lash, and the brutality, and the dereliction, and the nails through his hands and feet, and the mockery, and the spear thrust, and the grave. There was no intervention from heaven. He could have sent ten thousand angels, but he did not send one to help his Son. And when I think that God his Son not sparing sent him to die, I scarce can take it in. He was divine, and he was his Son, and he loved him like no other being in heaven and on earth and yet God did not spare him. Again . . .
ii] Consider the blameless character of the one who was not spared. A judge might spare a convicted criminal through grace and pity. He will bring all the factors into consideration, his hea
lth of mind, the pressures the convicted man was under when he acted as he did, his previously blameless character. He will hear the plea for clemency coming from the family of the convicted man, from his lawyers, and even from the victim herself. The judge will spare him the full severity of the law. He will temper justice with mercy. The sentence will be briefer, the strokes of the lash will be fewer, the conditions of the sentence far less severe. It will be an open prison with visiting rights, and so on. Mercy will kiss justice.
But with this holy child Jesus there is no need to plead for mercy, for the accused has broken no law, no moral law, no ceremonial law, no civil law. The convicted thief seeing him die said. “Surely he has done nothing amiss.” Pilate’s wife told her husband that he was a righteous man and so did the legionnaire supervising the crcifixion. Peter knew him intimately and said that he was like a lamb without spot or blemish. All he needed was to be treated fairly. His only plea was that justice should be done. He could appeal above the Sanhedrin and above Herod and Pilate and plead to God who knew everything about him that he should be treated justly. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” he could plead. Then he would be spared all the horrors of Good Friday. They would not pluck one hair from his beard or even pat him mildly on his arm for what he had. There would be no condemnation. And yet it was he who was not spared from all the horrors of Golgotha.
iii] Consider again that the Son actually asked to be spared. Who would not give his own beloved child something as reasonable as this? There are those who have gone to the scaffold with confidence, making a stirring speech or moving final words to their audience before they were killed. Not Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Please spare me from this dying.” There is so little here that we can see, but part of what we are seeing is this, the fact that it was not God’s will to hear the Lord’s request. The Father said, ‘No, there is no other cup for you.’ He didn’t take the cup away, and part of what I’ve got is the marvelous paradox of the Messiah praying for what God did not intend to give, indeed pleading earnestly for what God wouldn’t take from him. Sometimes we get into terrible trouble in our own souls because God doesn’t listen to our prayers. You remember Paul beseeching the Lord three times to take away the thorn in the flesh. Are we going to say, ‘What an unspiritual man Paul was’? He ought to have known that the thorn was God’s will for him.’ There is no hint of that. We have the man Christ Jesus expressing his creatureliness, pleading his sonship and his own shrinking and longing to escape from what he fears may be God’s will, but which he hopes against hope may not be the will of God. In that passion, kneeling down, lying on the ground, sweating drops of blood, praying with the earnestness of importunity and commitment longing that God’s will for him may be different from what he dreads and from what he has reason to believe it is going to be.
Here we have the Lord Jesus throwing himself on the ground longing for a different cup. He is the archetypal man, and he is the blameless man, and he’s asking for God to spare him. I take such help from this, that he’s not finding it easy to drink the cup. He doesn’t find automatic comfort knowing something is God’s will. He doesn’t take it in his stride. He is praying, not pretending that this is what he wanted all along, but the frank acknowledgment of the pain, and the heartbreaking confession of the hurt. I’m saying to God, ‘Father it does hurt; I am in such agony, nevertheless not my will but thine be done. I am not going to pretend that this is what I want. I am not going to say that this is how I’d love things to be if I could arrange them, but may your will be done, and not mine. Sometimes, as we are struggling under the rod, and the pain isn’t being eased at all, we hear a voice saying, “You can’t be right with God because if you were you’d enjoy it, because this is God’s will for you.” I reject that voice. I do not for a single moment believe that Christ enjoyed Calvary. It was sheer pain, and he asked that God would spare him, but he was submissive to God, “not my will but thine be done.”
iv] Consider again that God knew what redemption required. Divine redemption did not require a benign shrug, a weak looking the other way, some brushing our guilt and shame under some carpet or other. Redemption that comes from the throne of God and lasts for eternity requires justice, inexorable justice, scrupulously fair justice, demanding full satisfaction. The divine law remaining unbending, demanding perfect obedience and fulfilling all its warnings of judgment. God withheld not the only sacrifice that could meet all our guilt and blame and shame before heaven. “He spared not his own son.” God did not overlook a single demand. He did not dilute any of the punishment. No, God exacted the complete payment. The last drop in the cup was drained by Christ. Had there been the least relaxing of the law’s stringency, the slightest curtailment of the law’s penalty, then there would have been no salvation for us. He died to spare trashy, hypocritical weaklings like you and me. For us God did not spare his own Son. Only thus could full redemption be accomplished and applied.
- GOD GAVE UP HIS OWN SON.
You know how this word better translated “delivered” is used in the Bible. It is used of Lot in Sodom when the homosexual mob are battering down his door wanting to rape the travelers he has welcomed to his home. “Deliver them to us,” they are screaming in their lust, but Lot tells them he will instead deliver to them his daughters! What horror. So it is in Matthew’s gospel in particular that Jesus is described as being delivered to his enemies. He tells his disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes” (Matt. 20:18). Or there is Judas speaking to the chief priests. “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matt. 26:15). Or again we read, “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor” (Matt. 27:1-2). Or again we read, “Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up” (Matt. 27:17-18). Or again of Pilate we are told, “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matt. 27:26).
So let us ask the apostle Paul this mighty question, “Who was it who delivered up Jesus to die?” He will tell us that it was not Judas, for money; it was not Pilate, for fear; it was not the Jews, for envy; but Paul tells us here that it was the Father, for love! Peter knew it, preaching to the thousands
in the courts of the Temple on the day of Pentecost. Peter spoke thus of Jesus, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). Paul is doing in our text what we must always do, and that is to go to the divine First Cause of everything. “God delivered him up,” he says. Paul looks beyond Christ’s betrayers, and his accusers, and his murderers. He sees only the Father travailing in the greatness of his love to worthless men and women like ourselves. There are countless millions of us whom he loves. To what was the beloved Son of God delivered? To the hands of wicked men, God’s “darling to the power of the dogs.” He was thrown to the bulls of Bashan to trample and kill, to the poverty of Nazareth, to the homeless life of an itinerant preacher, to contempt and infamy, to grief and sorrow, to unparalleled suffering, and the most ignominious death. Isaiah in the darkness of messianic prophecy tells us that this would happen, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief.”
The Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a small book about the tragic death of his son in a climbing accident and the impact it has had on his entire life. For example in the immediate years after the accident he would go to a conference and meet strangers and they would ask him who he was and soon he would find himself saying, “I am the one who lost a son.” It inevitably came up and that is how he identified himself and thought of himself, not his entire identity, but much of it. It was endemic to his story. It was the defining moment in his history. So it is with our God. There are gods and lords many, but our God alone identifies himself by saying, “I am the God who delivered up his Son and spared him not.” The only God there is did that. Allah did not do that. Buddha did not do that. The gods of the Hindus and the gods of the Scientologists did not deliver up their sons and spare them not out of love for rebel sinners. But the Creator of the world, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ did that very thing. Oh dearly, dearly has he loved!
God did not spare his Son; he delivered him up not out of capriciousness, cosmically abusing his Son for the pleasure it gave him. Not that . . . not that at all. There was indeed a divine purpose in not sparing Jesus but delivering him up. We see that in this little word ‘for.’ God did it for something, for a reason. It was purposeful the setting of the cup of wrath down before Jesus and insisting that he drink it. So what is this word ‘for’? It is the ‘for’ of substitution. You all know the concept of sending onto the field a substitute. The manager sends a man on to the pitch; he is substituting him ‘for’ another. And so God did not spare his Son because he had been delivered up to Golgotha as our substitute. He was there to take my place and bear the consequences of my sin. It was ‘for our sake’ that he drank the cup. He came to bear our sins in his own body on the tree. The wrath that our sins deserve was poured out on the Substitute, the Lamb who died in our place. God delivered him up ‘instead of’ us. In our place condemned he stood. Our guilt and blame was imputed to him. We should have been the ones ‘delivered up’ to the punishment, for we are the sinners; but instead of delivering us up for what our sins deserve God delivered up his Son in our stead and in our place. That is the heart of the gospel, Jesus Christ and him crucified as our substitute, and never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never forget this. He was not spared in order that I might be spared. He was delivered up that I might be delivered from all my guilt and blame.
It was for ‘us.’ Paul again is speaking in solidarity with the Roman congregation, all the Christians whom he’s addressing as he writes this letter, the people in Rome who’ve come to believe in their hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord, confessing this with their mouths to all who ask them and all who will hear them. He is stretching out his arms to all of them and saying, “I stand in your midst, one with you. My hope is only in Jesus Christ my substitute.” Who are these people for whom Christ has been delivered? What is the truth about them? Is it that they were the nice, good, moral, religious people living on this planet whom God chose? No, it is quite the reverse. Every one of us, by nature, were ‘the children of wrath, even as others.’ That is what we all once were by our natural descent from Adam, and also as the result of our thoughts and words and actions, the objects of God’s wrath. Paul has already described us earlier in a cluster of verses in the fifth chapter, verse 6: “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” not like God at all – ‘ungodly’ and in verse 8: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Indeed verse 10 goes further and says that it was while we were “enemies” – anti-godly – he suffered hellish torment on the cross, and God did not spare him.
So the apostle is asserting that God delivered up his own Son; he kept nothing back from him, sparing him nothing of what sin deserves in God’s estimation. He allowed all that should have fallen upon us, guilty, vile rebels, deserving nothing but hell, to fall upon him. He “delivered up” his own Son, “for us”, even while we were enemies and haters of God. How important is every single word in this verse. Put the full content into that “us” here – as you must in chapter 5, verse 10: “If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved in his life!” For us former enemies for whom he died Christ was not spared, but we are spared.
Then to emphasize this he adds the word “all”, “gave him up for us all.” Is the apostle referring to the whole of mankind? Obviously he is not. The “us” refers to the people of whom he has been speaking earlier, “We know that all things work together for good . . .” To whom? To the whole world? To Nero on the palace on the hill in Rome, horribly abusing children and burning Christians alive? No! This letter is not written to him. Let him read his own correspondence. This letter is addressing “those that love God, to them who are the called according to God’s purpose.” The “us all” of verse 32 is limited to the same “us” as in the previous verses, and to no one else. Christ was delivered up for all of us who believe in him and confess him in the world. He was delivered up for every single one of us in particular. I emphasize this because it is where the final perseverance of the saints comes in. If God has delivered up his Son for me in particular, he is not going to abandon me. Every one of “us” is covered by this action of God which he undertook on the Cross on Calvary’s hill.
For us all, not just giving
himself for the cream of the cream, not only for the mature, godly, blameless women and the holy, wise men but for us all, the most recently converted Christian, the youngest lamb in the flock of Christ, the backslider struggling with his faith, the people who come from the most depraved backgrounds. “For us all” God gave up his Son. For all those known to God of whom some are uncertain whether they are Christians or not, but God can read their hearts. For all who trust in Jesus Christ, and that ‘all’ embraces every Christian in every congregation in the world whatever their label. John reminds us that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, yes, thank God for that, but not for our sins only but for the sins of men and women in every country in the whole world. No longer for the Jews only but for us all! For the whole world-wide elect church purchased with his own blood. For all in that church he has an equal love, and for all he paid an equal price. Never consider yourself less of an object of the Father’s love, and less of the purchase of the Saviour’s merits than any or all of the others. Oh, blessed, comforting truth – “for us all!” We urge you at the Lord’s Supper – “Drink ye all of it.” For you, who are tempted to interpret every trial you pass through as a sign of divine wrath upon you, and your sins as seals of condemnation, and your poverty as the judgment of God, and your times of darkness as tokens that God has deserted you, and your battles and doubts as evidence that you are self-deceived, then see them as fiery darts from Satan and see here that it was for you and all of us whose spider-thread thin faith is lodged in Christ that our Saviour was delivered up.
- GOD WITH HIS SON WILL GRACIOUSLY GIVE US ALL THINGS.
So it was for us that God did not spare his Son from the darkness and pain of Golgotha. It was for us that he has freely delivered him up into the hands of sinners and demons. That unspeakable gift of God is the guarantee of every other blessing we shall receive in our lives. “Will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (v.32). How compelling and conclusive the logic of the apostle! Since God has given us the greater he cannot and will not refuse the lesser. Paul assures all of us of God’s readiness freely to bestow every needed blessing. You have sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Yes. Then be assured of this that all other things God will give you. He certainly will. God is no man’s debtor. He will give to us far more than we will ever give up for him. “No-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mk. 10:29&30).
To that God stands pledged. He has signed a promise written in the blood of his Son and confirmed by his resurrection from the dead. The gift of his own Son, so freely and unreservedly bestowed, has become the security and the channel of every other mercy. The key is this, that all that God gives he gives with Jesus. He has given his Son, then he will withhold nothing else that we need. His is a love that knows no measure. What won’t his love do for us? When God gave his Son, he was commending his eternal saving love towards us. What were we at the time of Calvary? Sinners only, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If, when we were unbelieving sinners and his enemies, we were then reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, will he freely give us all things! “All things!” In other words you can add nothing to what God has given because God has given us simply everything. He has omitted nothing whatsoever. How comprehensive is that? It is omni-comprehensive! As the apostle writes, “According as his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Nothing has been overlooked. Nothing is left out. All we have needed his hand has provided. How can he fail to give us all that we need? Our needs may be great, but they cannot exceed his grace and his love.
He has graciously given us all things. Before we knew what we needed from him he gave us total forgiveness for all our sins – past sins, present sins and future sins. He imputed to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ, all the loveliness of Christ and his obedience even to the death of the cross, that was laid to our account. God gave us a new heart; he put a new spirit within us; he gave us saving trust in himself. He gave us a new Master and ended the tyranny of sin over us. He gave us the privilege of adoption into his family. He gave us a glorious inheritance, making us co-heirs with Jesus the Son of God. He joined us to Christ like a vine is in a branch so that the life of Christ could flow into us. He gave us the baptism of the Holy Spirit so that by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. He gave us the Holy Spirit as a seal sealing us until the day of Christ. He sat us down in the heavenlies in Jesus as our eternal status. He promised to supply all our needs richly. He would allow nothing to separate us from his love. All this he gave us long before we had any inkling that we had to have all those things. He blessed us exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or even think. Our life in Christ has been simply one discovery after another of the truth of this verse, that having Christ we have also got everything else.
So go to your Heavenly Father, and ask him for all that you need. Hasn’t God bound himself to you as your loving Father. He has spoken in Christ, the one who died and rose, that he would withhold no good thing from you. He is a pledged God, a covenant-keeping God, and from that pledge he will never recede, never stop granting to you all that you need. So inquire of him! Ask him! Plead the merits of Jesus and intercede. Whatever your demands then see what he has promised and ask him for the gift. Draw near to him and ask for love, and humility, and courage, and physical strength to face the future, and wisdom, and patience, and hope, and guidance, and an end to your loneliness. “For if you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Is it forgiveness or a forgiving spirit you need? Then ask him for both because those who are forgiven forgive. He who provided the sacrifice for sin, won’t he freely bestow the forgiveness of sin and the strength to forgive? Is it graciousness you need? Having given you the reservoir of grace, grace that is greater than all our sins, then isn’t he as willing and able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work? Is it comfort for a broken heart? Having given you Jesus, the Consolation of Israel, won’t he prove to you that he is the “God of all comfort?” Is your need for work, and paying off your debts, and feeding and clothing your family? Are your circumstances difficult? Are you filled with forebodings of future difficulties, are both the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal getting low, and you are getting fearful? Take those needs to God. The shoes on the feet of the children of Israel as they walked through
the wilderness did not wear out! Will God bestow the higher blessings of grace, but withhold the inferior blessings of providence? Never! If you can press to your heart the priceless, precious, unspeakable gift of his Son, then you cannot also press to that same heart gloomy thoughts of God’s unwillingness and inability to supply all your need. Graciously he will give us all things. God’s gifts are rich and gratuitous. He always bestows more, never less, than those we ask for. It would seem as though Jesus couldn’t open his hands to a poor man coming to him without his hands overflowing with generosity and love. Go to him just as you are and plead his promises.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labours increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun. (Annie Johnson Flint)
5th August 2012 GEOFF THOMAS