How Are We "More Than Conquerors" in Christ?
Most civilizations triumphed over others through an exercise of military force, conquering other people groups and becoming the dominant power in a region, until another rose up to take its place. Even in the Bible, the Israelites had to rise up as conquerors to claim the land God promised them. From Genesis to Revelation, the picture of God’s domain as a coming kingdom is a central focus.
However, the language about followers of the one God does not depict the citizens of this kingdom as conquerors, but as sons and daughters. The Apostle Paul wrote, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Despite persecution, pain, suffering, and the trials of a broken world, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ become co-heirs with Him in the Kingdom of God, who will overcome death and the grave through the blood of Jesus.
What Is the Context of Romans 8:37?
While Paul’s epistles are full of deep theological truths, one of his most dense letters was the one to the church in Rome. It was one of the more multicultural churches of its day, with both Jewish and Gentile members.
Paul addresses a great deal of difficult questions from salvation, to appropriate behavior, to how to relate to earthly powers. It is a letter which is trying to communicate specific ideas to a broad audience that come from many different contexts. Thematically, Romans 8 comes after a discussion about freedom in Christ from the law and from sin, and before a switch towards a discussion about God’s sovereignty.
The focus of what is now organized as Chapter 8 in the Bible centers around what the big picture ramifications of a life in Christ are. What does it mean to live guided by the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be heirs with Christ? What does being heirs with Christ mean for the eternal future? It is after discussing these big ideas that Paul calls believers, “more than conquerors.”
What Does "More Than Conquerers" Mean?
Approaching the end of the chapter, and a discussion about the glorious future for those who align themselves with Jesus, Paul speaks words of hope to a church that would become the focal point for persecution in the coming years. In context, Romans 8:37 sits in the middle of the following passage:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height no depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-38).
From an earthly perspective, Paul’s statement is nonsensical. In essence, this passage is asserting that no matter what happens to a believer in this life, that person is a greater victor than an emperor who took an empire for himself. How can someone with nothing be greater than the most powerful person on earth? That person has the promise of eternal life in a kingdom ruled by a good king that will last forever, “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). Christians do not hope in things seen, but unseen.
Christians are more than conquerors through the blood of Jesus not only for salvation but for the turning of evil to good. The hope and strength of our faith allow us to endure knowing that it produces far greater rewards. We are able to love our enemies and persevere because of the love Jesus Christ showed us. We are not more than conquerors because of our own ability to escape the struggles and hardships, but because of what Jesus has done for us and is doing through us.
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How Does God Make Us Conquerors?
When someone takes over a kingdom, history shows they need to assert control in order to retain it. Conquerors have to prove their legitimacy - an heir does not. God does not see those who love Him as foot soldiers to go out and try to assert His authority over the earth. He does not need that. In His timing, He will return and assert His right to rule once and for all.
Instead, Christians are part of His plan to shine His light in the world, to be His hands and feet to minister to a broken world and show them the path to Him, where they can be adopted into His family and kingdom. Jesus Christ was the only begotten son, but believers become co-heirs with Him; “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17). People have the privilege to come to God as a child does to a father, and will receive a portion of Jesus’ inheritance when He comes into His kingdom.
The importance of the last idea in Romans 8:17 cannot be understated. Paul clarifies that there will be suffering with Christ in order to be a co-heir, and be glorified with Him. Not everyone will suffer to the same degree as another, and no one will ever suffer the way Jesus did on the cross. However, everyone will be asked to carry a burden in life. Some will face illness, others poverty, and some will be martyred for their faith.
None of these temporary hardships compare to what is to come, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Suffering becomes the refining process through which the Spirit sanctifies. No matter how much a Christian suffers, they will come out the other side as a conquerer - victorious because Jesus conquered the power of death at His resurrection. Death and suffering no longer hold permanent sway over the life of anyone who puts their faith in Jesus.
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
While God does help people overcome their trials in this life, the final victory - the more important victory - is the one Jesus has already won. Unlike a conqueror, legitimate heirs to a kingdom do not have to worry about being challenged about their status when it comes time to dispense the inheritance, and neither do Christians. They will inherit eternal life as co-heirs.
How Can This Verse Encourage Us in Times of Difficulty?
Everyone is called to follow God. Not everyone will follow the call, and those who do will be assigned different tasks, carry different burdens, and face different challenges. Just like Jesus told Peter that it did not matter what path John walked, he needed to follow the one laid out for him (John 21:20-15), Christians should not compare their walks and burdens.
We are already "more than conquerors" in the trials and struggles we face. No matter what difficulties appear in an individual’s life, Romans 8:37 reminds the reader that Jesus has already ensured their eternal salvation, and the future is glorious. God wants to be Father to all, and it is okay to cry out to Him as a child. Being an heir means having intimate access to the Father. No matter how painful life may be, there is an end to that pain, and incomprehensible glory waiting ahead.
In the trenches of the day-to-day, it can be difficult to look up and ahead, and keep focus on an abstract eternity that feels far away. God understands that, and left words of encouragement in His Word so that believers could cling to His promises. Even more encouraging, His Spirit indwells each Christian, giving them close and intimate access to Him to ask for help and strength during trials and tribulations. Victory is assured. Christians can carry themselves as more than conquerors, secure in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:57-57).
Sproul, R.C. Romans. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.
Swindoll, Charles. Insights on Romans. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015.
Wilmington, H.L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/NiseriN
Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.
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