Just as we can only love God because He first loved us, we can only hold on to God because He holds on to us. We can survive any threatening circumstance and overcome any spiritual obstacle that the world or Satan puts in our way because in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
Overwhelmingly conquer is from hupernikaō, a compound verb that literally means to hyper-conquer, to over-conquer, to conquer, as it were, with success to spare. Those who overwhelmingly conquer are supremely victorious in overcoming everyone and everything that threatens their relationship to Jesus Christ. But they do so entirely through His power, the power of Him who loved us so much that He gave His life for us that we might have life in Him.
Because our Lord both saves and keeps us, we do much more than simply endure and survive the ominous circumstances Paul mentions in verse 35. First of all, we overwhelmingly conquer by coming out of troubles stronger than when they first threatened us. Paul has just declared that, by His divine grace and power, God causes everything, including the very worst things, to work for the good of His children (8:28). Even when we suffer because of our own sinfulness or unfaithfulness, our gracious Lord will bring us through with a deeper understanding of our own unrighteousness and of His perfect righteousness, of our own faithlessness and of His steadfast faithfulness, of our own weakness and of His great power.
Second, we overwhelmingly conquer because our ultimate reward will far surpass whatever earthly and temporal loss we may suffer. With Paul, we should view even the most terrible circumstance as but “momentary, light affliction” that produces “for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
From the human perspective, of course, the over-conquest God promises often seems a long time in coming. But when, as true believers, we go through times of testing, whatever their nature or cause, we come out spiritually refined by our Lord. Instead of those things separating us from Christ, they will bring us closer to Him. His grace and glory will rest on us and we will grow in our understanding of His will and of the sufficiency of His grace. While we wait for Him to bring us through the trials, we know that He says to us what He said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” And we should respond with Paul, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Paul probably wrote his letter to Rome during a winter in Corinth, and it is not likely that either Paul or the Roman believers realized how short the time would be before they would stand in need of the apostle’s comforting words in this passage. It would not be many years before they would face fierce persecution from a pagan government and people that now tolerated them with indifference. It would not be long before the blood of those to whom this epistle is addressed would soak the sands of Roman amphitheaters. Some would be mauled by wild beasts, some would be slain by ruthless gladiators, and others would be used as human torches to light Nero’s garden parties.
Consequently, the true and false believers soon would be easily distinguished. Many congregations would be saying of former members, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). But those whom the world looks upon as the overwhelmed and conquered are in reality overwhelming conquerors. In God’s scheme of things, the victors are the vanquished and the vanquished are the victors.
MacArthur New Testament Commentary