More Than Conquerors
Rev Cornelius Hanko (8 September, 1963)
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us (Rom. 8:37).
God’s people are different, different from others in
many ways. For one thing people generally like to have every one agree
with them. God’s people do not. In may things they want to be
contradicted. Particularly, they come to church to be contradicted.
For example, we come here with a deep sense of guilt.
There is for us, as we are in ourselves, only reason for condemnation. We
want to be assured that there is no condemnation whatever, since we are
righteous, righteous in Christ. Again, we realise how deeply depraved we
are. We are sinners, lost sinners, dead in trespasses and sins. But we
want to hear the assuring Word of God tell us that our sins are forgiven,
that we are saints, saints in Christ Jesus.
Still more. We lie in the midst of death. In this
world, death seems to have dominion along with sin. We say with Paul, "I
die every day." But we want to hear the Word of God say to us anew, "Your
life is hidden with Christ in God."
Yes, we want to be contradicted, but even more than
that, we want to learn to contradict ourselves, and that out of the
deepest conviction of our heart and mind. That is what the apostle does in
the words of our text. He speaks for himself, but he also speaks for the
entire church of all ages. And thus, he also includes you and me.
This is his victory song. Out of deepest humility he
complained at the close of chapter 7, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall
deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). In the same breath
he added, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7:25). That
shout of thankfulness becomes his victor’s song in chapter 8, as he
recalls the work of Christ through the Spirit in our hearts working all
things for our salvation.
Here in our text he reaches the climax of his song. In
doing so he boldly and defiantly challenges all his enemies with the
confident "Nay, but in all things we are more than conquerors through Him
Who loved us." Let us consider:
More Than Conquerors
I. A Blessed Reality
II. A Bold Confession
III. A Rich Assurance
I. A Blessed Reality
Conquerors, more than conquerors. It sounds like a
proud, yea, empty boast, and that for two reasons. First, no one must
under-estimate the power of our enemy. There is no more formidable enemy
in the whole world. Second, we are still in the midst of the battle. One
is reminded of the words of King Ahab, "Let not him that putteth on the
armour boast as one who taketh it off." The battle goes on and on, even
intensifies as time goes on, all the way to our final breath. Let us look
at these reasons a bit closer.
As I said, we have a powerful enemy, whose cunning,
deceit, treachery, hatred and power exceed all human imagination. Never
underestimate his power; that would be fatal.
Ours is not an enemy of flesh and blood, that we can
see, hear or touch. Luther is said to have flung an inkwell at him—but
that does not mean that Luther actually saw him. He is none other than the
old serpent, the devil, the dragon out of hell. He has thousands upon
thousands of cohorts, all busily engaged in carrying out his fiendish
He is that old serpent who deceived our first parents
in paradise, and brought all this present misery upon the world and on us.
He still goes about as a roaring lion, not only around the church, but
even right in the church, seeking whom he may devour. He even comes as an
angel of light when that will serve his purpose. He is not interested in
the world, those he has in his power, but he wants to destroy the church,
believers. He wants their crown.
He brings false doctrines that appeal to the flesh.
Damnable heresies, Scripture calls them. But to many these lies are so
very, very appealing. He condones sin, so that sin is no more sin. God’s
commandments mean nothing. Man decides for himself what is right or wrong
in regards to TV, movies, dance, unions, abortion, homosexuality, etc.
In one word, our enemy is spiritual. The battle is
spiritual, a battle against all the powers of hell who seek our crown. For
actually, as Paul reminds us in this chapter, in spite of all his alluring
talk and cunning lies, there is one thing he wants and that is to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and thus bring us to
hell with him.
Satan is a real enemy, so that it sounds like a proud
boast to say that we are conquerors, even more than conquerors. For the
second reason, it sounds like a proud boast because we are still in the
midst of the battle.
First of all, the enemy attacks us thorough this
present evil world. You can see his cunning in that especially today. More
and more we are told that this world is not so bad after all. In fact,
there is much good in the world, in drugs, in movies, in drama, in art, in
sciences, even in wicked men. They are not all bad, but really not bad at
all. Nor must we seek antithesis, spiritual separation. We must seek
synthesis. Mix the bad apples with the good, so that the good apples make
the bad ones good. You need not separate yourself personally from that
world either, but you may indulge freely in her sports, her treasures and
pleasures, so that every mark of distinction is wiped out—no one can see
the difference, not in outward appearance, not in actions, not in speech.
Secondly, he comes through our sinful flesh. This is
our worst enemy: the foe within the gates. The world draws like a magnet.
The appeal is so strong that we are irresistibly drawn to the world with
all her sins and evils. Actually even the world admits that the situation
is quite hopeless. The snares of sin are so powerful as they wrap
themselves round about us, that what you have done once you are bound to
do again, according to the frank admittance of the world. As far as your
flesh and my flesh are concerned, the situation is simply hopeless.
What are the weapons that are used in this battle? "Not
human strength, nor mighty hosts, not charging steeds nor warlike boasts
can save from overthrow." The Psalmist was aware of that years ago and it
is just as true today. In fact, just as our battle is a spiritual battle
so the weapons are spiritual.
Many in the church today speak with scorn about these
weapons, as if you need put no trust in them, especially not in our modern
age, because they have failed in the past and they certainly will fail you
today. Almost sneeringly the world looks with scorn on those weapons, just
as Goliath did when that young stripling of a David came to him with a
staff in one hand and a sling in the other.
Our weapons are the Holy Scriptures, nothing less,
nothing more. Jesus taught us that when He Himself met every onslaught of
the devil with the simple challenge, "It is written." Paul teaches
us that when he speaks of the Christian’s armour as consisting of a
breastplate of righteousness, a girdle of truth, a helmet of salvation, a
sword of the spirit, a shield of faith and the shoes of preparedness of
This Bible is your weapon that you can throw at any
enemy and overcome him with it, better even than cannons, bombs or shells.
But you must know how to handle it.
In spite of all this, Paul assures us that we are more
than conquerors! Conquerors! We stand in the battlefield of this world
with the fiercest, cruellest enemy that anyone can imagine. He is not
interested in our life, our possessions, our home, our natural comfort. He
wants our soul!
It is not "we shall be conquerors," although
that is true enough. We’ll raise the victor’s song at least, even as the
apostle Paul who could say, "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the
faith … forthwith the crown." But this is stronger than that. We are
even now conquerors, while the enemy rages and fumes around about us.
There is still more. We are more than
conquerors. A soldier may leave the field of battle after having driven
the enemy to rout. Happily he goes home the victor, and yet he often does
that with mixed feelings.
He may have been severely wounded, so that he carries
the battle scars the rest of his life. The losses to one’s own victorious
army may be so great that another victory like that would mean disaster.
In wars that are fought among men, there never is a real victor who can
boast only of victory. There are sorrows, griefs, losses, destructions,
that are never again completely overcome.
Yet that is not the way in the Christian’s battle of
faith. The damages, the losses, the scars of battle are always with the
enemy. The damages, the losses, the scars that we suffer are turned to our
profit. The enemy can only be instrumental to bless us, to prepare us for
heaven, and finally, at death, to give us complete victory with Christ in
glory. A glorious reality: "We are more than conquerors!"
II. A Bold Confession
But then it must not escape us that Paul makes this a
personal confession. He takes it on his own lips. He wants us to take that
on our lips also. We must repeat that after him, so fully and sincerely
that it becomes evident in our lives.
He makes it very personal when he teaches us to say, "In
all these things." We stand and look about us. We see the present and
future, as well as the past. We see angels and devils, powers of hell,
rulers of darkness in this present evil world. We often see ourselves as
lone warriors fighting a bitter fight that carries on day after day, year
after year as long as we are in this body of death. And the end we see
also—death and the grave.
That the apostle has this in mind is evident from the
fact that he speaks of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
nakedness, or famine, or peril, or sword. You have just about every kind
of misery included there. The attack of the enemy, sufferings at the hand
of God, sickness, pain, loss of dear ones, even death itself, which can be
so very bitter.
Paul even takes a quotation from the lips of the church
of the old dispensation, from Psalm 44:22, where the believers complained,
"We all the day long by thy wrath are consumed, defeated and helpless to
death we are doomed. Then why dost Thou tarry, Jehovah, awake, nor spurn
us forever, arise for our sakes. Rise, help and redeem us …" Can’t you
hear the agony, the bitter cry of woeful helplessness verging on despair?
How often we raise a similar complaint, many times with less reason than
is mentioned here.
The experience is actually not a strange one. Think of
Joseph in Egypt, tempted by his master’s wife, threatened with
imprisonment and death if he would refuse to sin! Think of him in prison
for no offence whatever and that in a strange land. Think of Jacob who
complained, "All these things are against me." Or Paul, "I die every
day—in prison, in shipwreck …" Or read about the heroes of faith in
Hebrews 11, of whom the world was not worthy, who were willing to die
because they sought an imperishable crown.
Actually God never makes it easy for his people. There
are always trials. Our spiritual eye grows dim, our faith falters. I ask
in fear and anxious care, has God forgotten to be kind?
It is exactly in experiences like these that we are
told to cry out with the apostle, "Nay." We want to be contradicted. We
have to be. We must even contradict ourselves!
Not defeated. Not even going down in defeat. Yes,
according to the flesh we may slip and fall. We may even fall repeatedly,
much to our own shame and confusion. We may hate ourselves, with the
complaint, "O wretched man that I am!" We may seem to be losing out every
Yet not really, not for the true, sincere child of God.
He won’t even let himself take that defeatist attitude. "Devil, world,
sinful flesh, you can never harm me. You can never overcome. Come what
may, I am more than conqueror in famine, in nakedness, in peril."
III. A Rich Assurance
But how can we be sure? Certainly there would be
nothing worse than to make this an empty boast. That would make us the
laughing stock of the whole world. Still worse, there is nothing that the
enemy would like better than that he could destroy us with the vain boast
on our lips, "Conqueror am I." There are certainly those who have gone to
hell with the boast of victory on their lips, those who have shouted
"Lord, Lord," only to hear that terrible indictment, "I know you not!"
Nor can we boast in human strength. One of the most
obvious earmarks of heresy is that it centres in man, not in God or
Christ. Man likes to boast of what he has done and is doing. He seeks a
religion that honours him, exalts him, not God. All Pelagianism,
Arminianism, and even Neo-Pentecostalism stresses that big I, I, I …
Paul turns our eye away from self to Christ. I
can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yet he does not
mention Christ by name. Rather, he speaks of "Him who loved me," not, "Him
who loves me," in the present tense.
No, the reference is to some time in the past when that
love became especially evident. That one time, you know and I know, was at
Calvary. There God gave His only begotten Son. The Son gave His life. It
all centres in that great love wherewith God loved us then. Christ died,
we died. Christ arose, we arose. Christ was taken to heaven; we are there,
too, in Him. Christ died, yea, even more, He is risen, and sits at the
right hand of God interceding for us. He is also heard, so that He blesses
us out of heaven with every blessing of salvation. And He who has begun a
good work will surely finish it.
But how can I be sure that this pertains to me? His
love is spread abroad in our hearts, evident especially in sorrow for sin,
hating sin, fleeing and fighting it always. Then we are not mere Sunday
Christians who make a vain boast on Sunday, only to give in to the devil,
the world and our flesh again tomorrow. But it is a daily challenge. I am
persuaded—that must become evident in your life and mine, so that the
devil can see it, the world can see it, your family can see it, and you
can rejoice in it. I am persuaded that neither height nor depth, nor
principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, yea,
nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God which is
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
More than conquerors are we! Amen.
The life of Rev. Cornelius Hanko, the author of these
devotional sermons on Romans 8, is covered in his memoirs,
Less Than the Least.