When Dr. Jim Boice, the long-time minister at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, was dying from liver cancer in 2000, he wrote a hymn based on the words of Romans 8:38–39. At the end of each stanza, which was written in question form, Dr. Boice gave the triumphant refrain, “Nothing. Hallelujah!” The final verses were particularly personal: “We face death for God each day; what can pluck us from his way? Let God’s people ever say, ‘Nothing.’ Hallelujah!”
Such confidence is born from this text in Romans 8. Toward the end of the chapter, Paul is answering the question he posed in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” It is a question that we need to ask ourselves regularly—because we often feel like we have been separated from Christ’s love.
We feel separated from Christ’s love when death overwhelms us, taking those whom we love, or when life seems to crush us, bringing disasters around every turn. It feels as though unseen forces are at work, angels and rulers opposing us, and as though things in our present and in our future stand against us. Even the universe itself in its height and depth—heaven, earth, and hell—seem to stand as barriers to Christ’s own love.
In those times we have to come back to this section. Can any of these things really separate us from Christ’s love? No, they cannot. And so, who or what can separate us? Nothing. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love.
But how is it possible that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love?
It is possible because of what Paul said earlier: God showed that He was for us by not sparing His own Son but delivering Him up for us all. And if God gave His Son up for us all, “how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Christ’s death on the cross secured our salvation and demonstrated God’s gracious love. Likewise, God declared us to be justified in His sight through Christ’s work so that no one can make a charge against us: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (v. 33). And further, Jesus not only died, but also was raised and continues to live to make intercession for us (v. 34).
So, on those days when it feels like heaven and earth stand against us, we have to come back to Romans 8 and ask ourselves the question, “Who or what can separate us from Christ’s love?” And when we see Christ’s death, when we hear God’s declaration of justification, when we are persuaded of Christ’s continued intercession, there is only one answer we can give: “Nothing. Hallelujah!”