38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
Verses 38 and 39 conclude the argument for the believer’s eternal security.
38 For I am persuaded
The grammar for “am persuaded” is stand convinced. The Greek tense indicates that Paul was in the permanent state of conviction, a settled confidence (perfect tense). Paul stood convinced and certain that nothing will separate the believer from the love of God (v.39). There is no shadow of doubt in this; it was no mere conjecture to him. It was no passing whim for Paul. He was confident in what God promised him. In verse 35 he said the same thing:
Ro 8:35, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Certainty and conviction are the true signs of a Christian committed to God’s Word, especially certainty about eternal life.
Paul was committed to God’s promise of eternal life. Conviction and certainty are foundational to assurance of salvation and Christian living.
Job declared at a climaxing point in the book, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25, 26 esv). Job made a direct statement of certainty about his salvation.
God makes it patently clear in the Bible that He expects us to take assertions of Scripture with certainty. Luke made this transparent in his prologue to the gospel of Luke. He wanted Theophilus to know something for sure: “That you may have certainty concerning the things [literally, “words”] you have been taught” (Lu 1:4 esv).
Luke’s statements through inspiration of Scripture are reliable; we can count on them. The word “certainty” is emphatic in the sentence because of its position. Later, in writing Acts, Luke said that Jesus presented himself after the resurrection with “many infallible proofs” (1:3). A proof is, in the Greek, a certain or sure token. It is that which causes something to be known as confirmed or verified. Jesus gave demonstrable evidence that He was alive. The word for “proofs” is a technical term derived from logic, with the thrust of being demonstrative proof or evidence. The idea is proved beyond a doubt. This is exactly what some evangelicals do not want to do—to prove something beyond doubt.
The finite capacity of human beings cannot bring us to sure knowledge of God. If we begin with man, the shifting sands of uncertainty will prevail. If we begin with the broad road, we will go nowhere. Finiteness constitutes the limitation of human beings. If we take the narrow road, we will obtain certainty of truth. Mankind’s only hope is that God would reveal himself, for God is the source of certainty. God gives us our faith by the power or demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Faith does not begin with self.
Christians have a “sure” and steadfast anchor of the soul (He 6:19). The word of prophecy was “made more sure” than the personal experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pe 1:10ff). “Sure” implies something trustworthy that we can count on; we cannot trust something about which we are not sure. We cannot trust our personal perspective on things. The Christian is to hold certainty with confidence:
“And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (He 3:6 esv).
The church father Irenaeus made the point that we cannot have certainty without God’s initiative: “Without God, God is not known.” Medieval Christianity, however, was fraught with uncertainty. Few believed that they had done enough works to gain eternal life. Early on, neither Luther nor Calvin could find release from the uncertainty of their salvation. The Reformation restored certainty because of trust in extant statements of the Word about justification by faith. Under the guidance of Calvin, Nicholas Cop (rector of the University of Paris) said, “God cannot be worshiped in doubt.” There was no grand “perhaps” in Calvin or his followers.
The Christian faith has an indubitable foundation—the Word of God. It challenges the idea that truth is always open and subject to change, for it is a belief not derived from other beliefs. God does not present his truth as a hypothesis or theory.
If you wish to understand more about biblical certainty, see my book Certainty, a Place to Stand.