This post contains Father Callan’s brief summary of verses 31-39, followed by his notes on today’s reading.
THE LOVE OF GOD FOR US
A SUMMARY OF ROMANS 8:31-39
The certainty of the Christians’ future glory being proved, St. Paul now terminates the second section of the Dogmatic Part of this Epistle with a hymn of praise and triumph, moved by the evidence of the love of God and of Christ which the reasons for our hope have inspired. He shows that the faithful have nothing to fear, and that nothing can separate them from the charity of Christ.
35. Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?
The Apostle now shows that, after so many blessings, nothing in the world ought to be able to separate Christians from the love of Christ, i.e., the love of Christ for them.
Then (Vulg., ergo), is not represented in the Greek.
Love of Christ, for us, according to modern interpreters. The Apostle is insisting on the certainty of our future glory because of the gifts we have received from God, not because of our faithfulness to Christ; this latter of course is presupposed. “Love of Christ” here is doubtless the same reading as “love of God” in verse 39, which shows that St. Paul identified Christ and God.
36. (As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.)
The tribulations unto death of the just had already been described by the Psalmist in Ps 44:23, where there was question of persecutions which the people of Israel sustained from their enemies (very probably under Antiochus Epiphanes, when some of the Israelites were put to death) for the sake of God. The Apostle applies these words to the Christians to show what they must bear for Christ, thereby again identifying God and Christ.
For thy sake, i.e., for the cause and religion of the true God.
All the day long, i.e., continually.
There should be no parentheses around this verse.
37. But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us.
In all our tribulations, distresses, etc., we come out victorious because of the help we receive from God, because of the love of Christ for us. As in verse 35, so here it is Christ’s love for us that is in question.
The Vulgate propter eum should be per eum.
38. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might,
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Apostle here tells us that, on account of the love which God has for us in Christ, nothing, even the most terrible, or the most alluring things in creation can suffice to separate us from God. St. Paul is stressing the potency of God’s love for us, which nothing can shake or impair, except, of course, our own will.
Death, the most terrible physical evil.
Life, the most desirable good of the present natural state.
Angels, i.e., spirits sent as messengers.
Principalities, spirits of a superior order.
Powers (Vulg., virtutes), i.e., forces of nature. This term “powers” is wanting in the best MSS., and is likely a repetition of fortitude (fortitudo) of the Vulgate. No powers, conditions or influences of the present or future time, no creature, material, human or angelic, can separate the Christian from God—from the love which God has for us and which He has shown us through Christ. St. Paul is here emphasizing God’s love for us, which, of itself, is able to do so much for our souls; he is taking it for granted that we shall not choose, by our own free will, to defeat the effect of God’s love for us.