Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?.... By "the love of Christ" is not meant the saints' love to Christ, but his love to them; he is indeed the object of their love, and so strong is their love to him, that it can never be destroyed; for though there may be an abatement in the fervour of it, it can never be lost; yet this is never called the love of Christ: besides, the apostle is speaking not of their love to Christ, but of the love of God and Christ to them, throughout the context; and his design is, to strengthen the faith of God's people, and comfort their souls, under their various afflictions: now nothing more effectually serves such purposes, than the love of Christ; and the things here instanced in are such, as are apt to inject doubts and fears, about interest in the love of Christ, and of the love of God in Christ, as it is interpreted in some following verses: moreover, the separation here interrogated is not of Christ from us, but of us from him; whereas was it our love to Christ, which is here meant, it should rather have been put, who shall separate him from us, and not us from the love of Christ? That Christ does love the elect of God, who are the persons here spoken of, is evident from his undertaking for them, espousing their persons, assuming their nature, dying in their room and stead, paying off their debts, and redeeming their persons, by going to prepare a place for them, by interceding for them, by supplying them with all grace, and using them in the most free and familiar manner; which love of his is wonderful, matchless, and inconceivable, special and peculiar, free and undeserved, exceeding affectionate, unchangeable, durable, and for ever. This is the bond of union to Christ; and the union which is made by it is exceeding near and close; it is real; perfect, and indissoluble, nothing can separate from it: not
tribulation; or "affliction", which springs from his love, and is the fruit of it; and notwithstanding that, he rests in his love; this is not taken away, but is often sensibly enjoyed, in the midst of afflictions:
or distress; whether of body or mind; straitness in the affairs and circumstances of life, or straitness of mind, in the exercise of grace, and discharge of duty; for "though we believe not, yet he abides faithful", 2 Timothy 2:13, to his covenant and promises:
or persecution: from the world; for this is rather an evidence that Christ has loved them chosen and called them, because the world hates them:
or famine: want of the necessaries of life, as food and drink; being exposed to great hunger and thirst, which has sometimes been the lot of the dear children of God:
or nakedness; want of proper clothing, or the use of common apparel; wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, which has been the case of some, of whom the world was not worthy, and so no proof of separation from the love of Christ:
or peril; dangers from different quarters, by different persons and ways; such as the Apostle Paul had trial of, who was highly in the love of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:26;
or sword; that is, death by the sword; which death James the brother of John died, Acts 12:13: now, though this may separate the head from the body, and separate soul and body, yet cannot separate from the love of Christ.