These are unusual, challenging days. The Covid-19 virus has created a world-wide pandemic leaving sickness and death in its wake. As medical and governmental leaders work to address the problems created by this virus, we are watching massive changes take place at a breath-taking pace. The disease is highly contagious—as is the panic that has taken hold of many because of it.
While the estimates vary, many United States governmental officials are telling the nation to prepare for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the virus.
Whole industries have been disrupted as manufacturers have shifted to producing medical equipment to help deal with the virus. Many businesses have been severely altered or shut down altogether because they are deemed non-essential.
In the last two weeks in March an unprecedented 10 million unemployment claims were filed in the United States. Another 7 million are expected to be filed this week. Many in the church I serve in Florida have lost their jobs or seen decrease in their incomes. I am sure that is happening in churches not only in North America, but also around the world.
With all of the uncertainty and nervousness that permeates every sector of society in the midst of this pandemic, God’s Word reminds Christians that we have no reason to give into fear in the face of the Coronavirus. On the contrary, because of what our sovereign God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we can face the pandemic of Covid-19 with great confidence.
Paul forcefully makes this case in Romans 8:28-39. In those twelve verses he gives us four reasons that Christians can face every situation in life—including pandemics—with confidence in our sovereign God.
God’s Saving Purpose
First, verses 28-30 assure us that we can be confident in God’s sovereign purpose. Though verse 28 does not mean that “everything always works out for the best,” it does certainly teach that God works all things together for the good of His people. It is only Christians who can be described as loving God and having been called according to His purpose.
“Purpose.” That is the most important word in verse 28. God has a purpose—a plan—for His people. He has a goal for us. That goal is explained in the “golden chain of salvation” that is found in verses 29-30. It stretches from eternity past (“those whom He foreknew He also predestined”) to eternity future (“those whom He justified, He also glorified”).
Because of what our sovereign God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we can face the pandemic of Covid-19 with great confidence.
What is God’s purpose for His children? In short, that we will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (29). Or, as Paul puts it in verse 30, that we might be “glorified.” This is the “good” for which God is working all things together in the lives of His people. He has saved us not only on purpose but for a purpose. And that purpose will not be frustrated by anything that comes into our lives—including pandemics.
God’s Sovereign Provision
Paul encourages Christians to be confident not only because of God’s sovereign purpose but also because of His sovereign provision. In verses 31 and 32 the apostle makes this point by employing the first in a series of rhetorical questions, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul puts it like this to make us stop and think. It is the same method and point the Psalmist makes in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The obvious answer is, “No one!”
The God who raises the dead is not only with us but is also for us. He is our Father who has promised to fulfill His purpose for us and to make us like Jesus!
Not only that, but as verse 32 says, God will also freely give us all things. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” J.I. Packer calls this a pantechnicon promise because in it is packed all of the other promises of the Bible.
Paul reasons from the greater to the lesser. If God did not spare His greatest gift—His only begotten Son—then we can be sure that He will not spare any other gift we need. This is true no matter what our needs might be, including finances, health, comfort, wisdom, protection, etc. The promise includes “all things.”
If a man gives his fiancé an engagement ring, he surely would not withhold the box in which it came. In a much greater way, if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up to accomplish everything necessary for our salvation—including His incarnation, obedient life, and especially His sacrificial death on the cross—we can be certain that He will freely give us, along with Christ, whatever we need to make us completely like Christ.
God’s Sovereign Salvation
In verses 33-34 Paul reminds us of God’s sovereignty in salvation. He does so first by referring to Christians as “God’s elect.” Believers must remember that long before we ever came to trust Jesus Christ as Lord we were chosen by God and loved by Him with an everlasting love. God has justified us and He has done so on the basis of “Christ Jesus…the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (34).
If God did not spare His greatest gift—His only begotten Son—then we can be sure that He will not spare any other gift we need.
Our sins have been paid for. Our righteousness has been secured and forever resides in the God-man in heaven. Our Savior sits enthroned at God’s right hand ruling and overruling in the world. And He does so as our Advocate. Charles Wesley well-captured this truth in the poetic imagery of his hymn,
Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
Christians are in no danger of losing their salvation because it has been sovereignly secured by Jesus Christ.
God’s Sovereign Love
There is absolutely no hardship in this world that can separate Christians from the love that Christ has for us. That is the point of the rhetorical question of verse 35 and the following explanations that Paul gives to the end of the chapter. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” No one nor no thing. Not “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.” It is if Paul is reflecting on some of the challenges of his own life when he makes this list.
Such trials are painful and we experience them in the moment as genuine threats. Nevertheless, in and through them all, believers are “more than conquerors” (37). How? Through our own wisdom, maturity, ingenuity, or strength? Hardly. Rather, “through Him who loved us.” We will conquer because God loves us.
Because God is eternal, so is His love. Because He is unchangeable, so is His love. Because He is sovereign, so is His love. And this is why Paul can write that he is sure “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (38, 39).
This means that Christians can face every situation in life—including this Coronavirus pandemic—with absolute confidence in our sovereign God.
Though these are frightening days, we have nothing to fear because we know God; the sovereign God who is working out His sovereign purpose, has promised us His sovereign provision, has accomplished for us a sovereign salvation, and who loves us with a sovereign love.
So, yes, wash your hands often; practice social distancing; quarantine yourself if you are sick or have been exposed to those who are; give up non-essential travel and activities. But as you do, remember your God; the sovereign God. And face these days with confidence.