He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?
Were the church a pure and Spirit-filled body, wholly led and directed by spiritual considerations, certainly the purest and the saintliest men and women would be the ones most appreciated and most honored, but the opposite is true!
Godliness is no longer valued, except for the very old or the very dead!
The saintly souls are forgotten in the whirl of religious activity. The noisy, the self-assertive, the entertaining are sought after and rewarded in every way, with gifts, crowds, offerings and publicity. The Christlike, the self-forgetting, the otherworldly are jostled aside to make room for the latest converted playboy who is usually not too well converted and still very much a playboy.
The whole shortsighted philosophy that ignores eternal qualities and majors in trivialities is a form of unbelief. These Christians who embody such a philosophy are clamoring after present reward; they are too impatient to wait for the Lord’s time! The true saint sees farther than this; he cares little for passing values; he looks forward eagerly to the day when eternal things shall come into their own, and godliness will be found to be all that matters.
The wise Christian will be content to wait for that day, and in the meantime, he will serve his generation in the will of God!
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?
John Calvin always expressed himself beautifully and frequently with great power. He has done both in his comments on Romans 8:31:
“ ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’
“This is the chief and therefore the only support to sustain us in every temptation. If God is not propitious to us, no sure confidence can be conceived, even though everything should smile upon us. On the other hand, however, his favor alone is a sufficiently great consolation for every sorrow, and a sufficiently strong protection against all the storms of misfortune.”
The great Reformer then cites a number of Bible texts in which believers dare to despise every earthly danger because of trusting God alone.
Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Psalm 56:11. “In God I will trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Psalm 3:6. “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” Calvin then concludes, “There is no power under heaven or above it which can resist the arm of God.”
That is all very true, and it is what the apostle Paul wants us to conclude as the result of Romans 8:31, the first verse of the great defiant paragraph that concludes the eighth chapter. But a new question arises in our minds: Granted that nothing can be against us if God is for us, but is God really for us? How can we know that the great God of the universe is actually on our side?
Perhaps he is too busy to care about us.
Maybe we are too insignificant for him to give us even a second thought.
What if our sins have caused him to regret that he brought us into being in the first place?
Paul has no doubts along any of these lines, of course. But lest we do, he follows his first question with a second one, which is meant to blow these fearful musings to the winds: “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?” (v. 32). The verse means: We can know that God is for us and will be for us always because he has already given us his Son.
Facts Not Emotions
I want to examine Paul’s statement in some detail because, like each of these great questions and statements, it is vitally important. But before I do, it is also important to notice what Paul does not say. If Paul were one of our contemporary Bible teachers or modern theologians, he might answer our doubts by saying, “You do not need to worry about the future, because God loves you. God is love.”
That would be true, of course. In fact, that is the ultimate affirmation of this paragraph: Nothing in heaven or earth or “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). But Paul was a pastor, and he knew well that we can all easily doubt such statements, particularly when life becomes difficult. “All right,” we may say, “I grant that God is love. But does he love me? How can I believe he loves me when I have lost my job, when my husband [or wife] has left me for someone else, when I have been diagnosed with an incurable disease? In fact, even when things go well, there are times when I just do not feel that God loves me or even that he cares about me at all.”
Paul knew that mere assurances that God loves us are not effective. So, instead of dealing with our doubts on the emotional level—which is what “God loves you” does—he turns from emotional experience to sure facts. According to this verse, we can know that God is for us, not because we somehow sense that it is his nature to be loving, but because he has given us his Son to die for us. That is, we can know God’s nature because of what he has already done in human history.
Actually, that is what Paul also does in verse 39, which I said was the ultimate affirmation of this paragraph. He says that nothing in heaven or earth or “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But notice that even there, where he is speaking explicitly of God’s love, it is nevertheless the love of God that is “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a way of saying that it is only in Christ and through the work of Christ that we can know and be assured of God’s love.
Someone has noted rightly that there is hardly a verse in the Bible that speaks of God’s love that does not also, either explicitly or by inference, speak of the cross of Christ or the atonement.
What Hath God Wrought?
The cross of Christ is so important to Paul that he will present various aspects of it in this and the next two verses. Yet Paul’s purpose here is not to develop a theory of the atonement; he has done that already in Romans 3. His immediate purpose is to remind us of the factual elements of the atonement so that we will know that God is truly on our side.
What facts does he tell us in this verse?
- That this is God’s action; God has done it. This is the kind of point that is easy to pass over and not even think about. But it is actually extremely important, and a failure to see it leads to errors. I will present two of them.
The first error is made by people who think of the atonement as something accomplished by a loving Jesus to change the mind of God, who is imagined to be angry. To this way of thinking, God is ready to condemn us, but Jesus enters the picture to plead for us. “I love these people,” he says. “Look, I am dying for them, in their place. Spare them for my sake.” So God, who initially is reluctant or hostile, eventually agrees. “All right,” he says. “I’ll do it since you seem to care so much.”
That is a travesty of what happened, of course. For whenever we read the Bible we find from beginning to end that the salvation of sinners by the death of Jesus is God’s idea, that he, to use theological language, is the author or source of our salvation. Think of Isaiah 53:4:
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
The point of the verse, as emphasized by the added italics, is that God was responsible for Jesus’s death. Isaiah makes the same point two verses further on, in verse 6.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6 is one of the clearest statements of substitutionary atonement in the Bible, but it is no less a statement of the fact that God the Father conceived and carried out this plan. God was not made to love us by Christ’s death. He loved us from the beginning, and it is because he loved us that Jesus died. We can easily see how important this truth is to the argument for eternal security that Paul is making.
The second error people make in thinking of Christ’s death is that they see it as a result of human actions only. “What a terrible day that was, when evil, jealous men killed the best man who ever lived,” they might say.
It is true that evil men conspired to do away with Jesus. But the Bible never stops there when it speaks of the atonement. Do you remember how Peter put it when he addressed the Jews of Jerusalem on Pentecost, a few bare weeks after the crucifixion? He asserted their guilt. There was no escaping that. But he said this, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23, emphasis added). They were guilty, but the important thing is that Jesus’ death had been planned and was accomplished by God.
So the atonement shows that God loved us from the beginning, indeed, has always loved us. It shows that he is truly on our side.
- That the atonement involved God’s only Son. The second point of fact Paul makes in verse 32 is that the atonement involved God’s one and only Son. This teaches a number of things, one of them being Jesus’ full deity. Indeed, this is basic to what comes next. For it is his being divine that gives the death of Jesus its full force and meaning. If Jesus were only another human being, his death would have no more value or significance than that of any other human being, a great example perhaps, but certainly not an atonement. It is because Jesus is the unique Son of God and therefore both holy and of infinite value that his death can be a true atonement for our sin.
John the Baptist introduced Jesus by saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is important, too, because it adds something to the first statement. Showing that God is the author of our salvation points out that God has always been disposed to love us; indeed, he has loved us from eternity. But if that is all that can be said, a question would immediately arise: But how much does he love us? We, too, often love, though not well. Our love weakens. Could it be that God is like us in love, that he loves but not a whole lot—not enough to actually see us through all life’s difficulties?
The answer, of course, is that God loves with an intensity and affection infinitely surpassing ours. And we know this because he has given us his own Son, his one and only Son. Jesus is the greatest gift God had to give. There is nothing in all the universe more precious to God than his Son and nothing greater than God’s Son. So when God gave Jesus, he proved the greatness of his love by the most precious gift of all.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave his Son to win.
His erring child he reconciled
and rescued from his sin.
O love of God, how rich and pure,
how measureless and strong.
It shall forevermore endure,
the saints’ and angels’ song.
- M. Lehman, 1917
- That God spared him not. The third assertion in this verse carries us a step beyond even what we have seen so far, for it tells us that God “did not spare” Jesus. He could have spared him, but he did not.
Almost everyone who writes on this verse carefully recognizes that it contains a strong reference to the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. This is because the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament uses the Greek word for “spared” that is found in Romans 8:32 to translate one of God’s words to Abraham following the patriarch’s amazing obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son. The New International Version translates it as “withheld” in the Genesis text, but it is the same word. God said, “… because you have done this and have not withheld [spared] your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore …” (Gen. 22:16–17).
The irony of the story, however, is that although Abraham was obedient to God up to the point of actually raising the knife to kill his son—that is, he did not spare him—God intervened to accomplish just that. God did spare Isaac, though Abraham was willing not to do so.
But the story also illustrates, and undoubtedly was also used by God to teach Abraham, that one day God literally would not spare his own Son but would allow him to die in order that Isaac and Abraham and all other believers down through the long ages of human history might be spared. Jesus is the only one who has ever deserved to be spared. Certainly none of us do. But by refusing to spare his Son, God spared us so that we might be saved and come to spend an eternity in glory with him. Somehow God taught that to Abraham on Mount Moriah, which is why Abraham named the place Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide” (Gen. 22:14). God provided for us by giving up Jesus.
- That God delivered up Jesus for us. This brings us to the fourth of the statements Paul has tucked into this single verse about the actions of God the Father in saving us through Jesus’ death on Calvary. The previous statement was negative: “He did not spare his own Son.” This statement is positive: “but gave him up for us all.” It is a way of making the point more emphatic.
What does the statement mean when it says that God “gave him up” for us all? It means that God delivered him to death, of course. Jesus died, whereas Isaac did not have to die on Mount Moriah. But it is not just physical death that is meant here. This death was a spiritual death, involving a temporary separation from the Father when Jesus was made sin for us and actually bore the wrath of God against sin in our place. Do you remember the agony of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus prayed that “this cup” might be taken from him and in his grief sweat, as it were, great drops of blood (Luke 22:39–44). Later on the cross he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). This was not a man shrinking from mere physical death. If it were, Socrates would be a better model for us than Jesus. Instead, it was the horror of the holy, eternal Son of God as he faced the experience of being made sin for us and of bearing the wrath of separation from the love of God in our place. He was delivered up so that we might be spared. He bore the wrath of God so that we might never have to bear it.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:
Such, then, is the measure of God’s love, and it is the only adequate measure of a love which is “beyond measure.” How pathetic and hopeless is the position of people who think that they safeguard the love of God by denying the substitutionary theory of the atonement, who say that our Lord did not cry out in an agony, and who imagine that the measure of the love of God is that God says, “Though you have killed my Son, I still love you, and am still ready to forgive you”! They believe that they safeguard and magnify the love of God by denying the truth concerning the wrath of God, and that God must and does punish sin. … What they actually do is detract from the love of God. The love of God is only truly seen when we realize that “He spared not his own Son” . …
It is in such an action that you see the love of God. He loved such as we are, and to such an extent, that for us he punished his only Son, did not spare him anything, “delivered him up for us all,” and poured upon him the final dregs of his wrath against sin and evil, and the guilt involved in it all.
From the Greater to the Lesser
At this point it is easy to see how Paul’s argument wraps up. For, having reminded us of the greater truth, indeed the greatest truth of all, the apostle insists that the lesser will certainly follow from it. It is like saying, “If a rich benefactor has given you a million dollars, he will certainly not withhold a quarter if you need it for a parking meter.”
“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?” What are these “all things” Paul mentions? Well, all things, of course! Still, we have to understand this in the context of the terms Paul has been using. It does not mean all material things, as if Paul were promising that we would be rich. Or even good health necessarily. It is rather along the line of verse 28, which says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It means that God will overrule everything for our benefit, so that even evil will somehow be worked into God’s great purpose, which is to make us like Jesus.
Whatever your circumstances, whatever trials, whatever pains, whatever persecutions, whatever hardships—God will use all of these things to make you like Jesus. Beyond that, he will provide all true necessities for your growth in holiness and perseverance in faith until the very end.
Love that Will Not Let Go
I want to end with a great hymn written by a Scottish minister of the last century whose name was George Matheson. He lived from 1842 to 1906. Matheson was blind, having lost his sight in his early youth, and his blindness gives great power and pathos to the words of the hymn, which clearly refer to it. But the occasion for the hymn was not the blindness but, in his own words, some “extreme mental distress,” which had brought him great “pain.” The story that grew up around this hymn, that his fiancée left Matheson when he lost his sight, seems to be unfounded. Nevertheless, something happened, something so painful that he never related it to anyone.
Matheson wrote this hymn on the evening of June 6, 1882, when he was alone in the manse in Inellen, Scotland, his family having all gone to Glasgow for his sister’s wedding.
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms read
Life that shall endless be.
No one can read those lines without knowing that George Matheson knew the love of God in Christ Jesus and was assured that, whatever his circumstances might be, “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” would surely “along with him, graciously give us all things.”
Christian, reason it out. Do not be double-minded in your spiritual understanding. Know that God is working out all things for your good and that he will surely keep on doing so until the end.
- He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
“He … did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up.” The depth of feeling implied in the words of verse 3—“sending his own Son”—is expressed even more vividly here in verse 32. If this does not mean that, in a sense, giving up his only-begotten and fathomlessly beloved Son was for the Father a genuine sacrifice, words no longer have meaning.
It is possible to think of a judge who does not spare a vicious criminal but pronounces on him the severe sentence he deserves. It is not inconceivable that such a judge might afterward enjoy a good night’s sleep.
But what we have here in Rom. 8:32 is something else. The following facts should be kept in mind:
God, the Judge, has a Son, an only Son, very precious to him. That Son never committed any sin. In all he did he was ever pleasing his Father (John 8:29).
On the other hand:
We all like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way.
Yet, on this precious and beloved Son God now pronounces the sentence we deserved. It is a sentence immeasurable in its severity, and is carried out in every detail. God did not spare his Son, did not mitigate the severity of the sentence in any way whatever, the Son himself agreeing with the Father and the Spirit in all this. He, the Son, fully bore that horrendous curse. He drank the cup of unspeakable agony to the very last drop. “That bitter cup, Love drank it up. It’s empty now for me.” See Isa. 53; Rom. 5:6–8; 8:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13. It would have been unthinkable for God to reject the demands of his justice. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).
We ask, “But why was the curse lifted from our shoulders and transferred to the Son of God?” The answer is: So deeply, intensely, and marvelously did God love the world that his Son, the only-begotten, he gave, in order that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting. Is not that the meaning of John 3:16?
There is, of course, a resemblance between:
“You [Abraham] have not withheld your son, your only son” (Gen. 22:12, 16)
“He [God] did not spare even his own Son …” (Rom. 8:32).
Yet, it is not the similarity which arrests our attention most of all. It is the contrast. Abraham was rescued in the nick of time, and so was his son Isaac. But Christ bore the wrath fully, willingly.
“… for us all.” In accordance with the immediately preceding context, the apostle must have been thinking of all those who love God (verse 28), who were foreknown and foreordained (verse 29), were (or were going to be) called, justified, and glorified (verse 30). To this can be added the similar expressions contained in the statements which follow; namely, the elect (verse 33), those for whom Christ makes intercession (verse 34), those who are “more than conquerors” (verse 37). It was to these people, to them all, to them alone, that the merits of Christ’s death had been, were being, or were going to be savingly applied.
Here again, as in connection with 5:18—see above, pp. 182, 183, it is not at all improbable that when Paul says, “He [God] gave him [his own Son] up for us all,” he included in his thought this idea: “God gave up his Son for Jew and Gentile alike,” for all his dear children regardless of race, sex, nationality, social standing, etc. See also Rom. 3:22, 23, 29; 10:11–13.
“How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
The argument is from the greater to the lesser, as in 5:9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24. Nothing could ever be a greater gift than the gift of Christ to the church. That gift is clearly implied in the statement, “God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.” Moreover, even though giving this Son was an unfathomable sacrifice as plainly implied in “God did not spare,” nevertheless, it is never a solitary gift: how will he not also together with him graciously—that is ungrudgingly, freely, gladly, generously—give us all things?
I can see no good reason to limit the expression “all things” to spiritual blessings, as some do. Paul was a very practical man. He knew that the people he was addressing were men of flesh and blood, who were vexed at times with worries over matters mundane. The expression “all things” should therefore be interpreted in an unqualified sense: material as well as spiritual things; cf. 8:28, where it has the same broad meaning.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 959–966). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 287–288). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.