A common image used in Christianity is the shepherd and the sheep based on John 10.
Christ is the shepherd, and so we are supposed to be the sheep.
Sheep follow. Sheep lay down. Sheep are sheared and left in shame bleating for their shepherd to intervene.
The problem is that Paul says we are not sheep, but more than conquerors through Christ by the gospel of grace (Rom 8:36).
Who Shall Separate Us?
Sheep get lost. Conquerors do not, because they know who they are in Christ, and that nothing can separate us from our Head (Col 2:19).
After explaining our complete position in Christ, our free access to all spiritual blessings, and our deliverance from condemnation, Paul asks:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” – Romans 8:35
The reality is that tribulation, distress, and peril will happen. The gospel of grace does not prevent them.
However, grace teaches that it is not the peril itself, but our response to it that changes victims into victors.
We do not respond to life’s troubles as victims, knowing who God has made us in Christ.
Equipped with the knowledge that God has done everything needed to pay for sins, defeat death, and remove condemnation, the only “who” that can separate from the love of Christ is you when you wander away from right doctrine.
In Romans 8:36 Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 talking about sheep going to the slaughter.
“For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” – Psalm 44:22
The author of Psalm 44 is crying out to God to intervene for deliverance from their enemies.
Israel had become a reproach to their neighbors because they could not physically defeat their enemies (Psa 44:13-14).
They were shamed because they claimed the one true God as their defender and were being defeated by their enemies (Psa 44:15-16).
They needed God’s help, but where was he?!
“Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.” – Psa 44:23
Psalm 44 is that of bleating sheep being slaughtered crying for help from the Shepherd (Psa 44:26). They were helpless victims crying “God save us!”
Paul quotes this Psalm as an example of the sheep response to perils: “Help!”
This is also the response of many Christians who do not understand the truth of being more than a conqueror through Christ.
They feel like helpless sheep and the only thing that can be done is to cry out for God to intervene and put a stop to their perils.
This is not Paul’s lesson. There is something more for us.
More Than Conquerors
Paul does not quote Psalm 44 to describe us. It as an example of what we are not.
In Romans 8:37, after Paul asks who can separate us, and quotes the sheepish cry of the Psalmist, he responds with a single word that silences the sheepish.
“Nay” – Romans 8:37
“Nay” means “no” for those not familiar with the King’s English.
Paul says we are not sheep going to slaughter.
Under grace God has no promise to prevent tribulation, distress, persecution, or peril against those who are saved. This can be intimidating and lonely if it were not for the knowledge that through Christ, “God is for us” (Rom 8:31).
Knowing that we have not been promised a Shepherd’s intervention can make us feel sheepish. Although we may be at times weak like sheep, we are not sheep.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” – 2 Cor 4:9
We have strength in weakness by virtue of the gospel being by God’s grace (2 Cor 12:9-10).
God’s grace is sufficient, not to remove us from the peril, but to strengthen us through it.
Christians are not sheep. Sheep get slaughtered. They do not conquer. We are more than conquerors, because even in death, we cannot be separated from salvation.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 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.” – Romans 8:38-39