Question: "What does "if God is for us, who can be against us" mean in Romans 8:31?"
Answer: Romans 8:31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” The “things” are the dozens of amazing proofs of God’s unfailing love listed in the preceding verses. Romans 8 contains many of the cherished verses that comfort us, such as “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1). And the one that gets us through difficult times: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (verse 28). Verse 31 of Romans 8 is a culmination of all those wonderful promises. It reminds us who God is and how He helps us. When we grasp the truth that God is for us, we have nothing to fear.
God is “for” us in the sense that He is on our side; He is working on our behalf and for our good. He has proved His benevolence in that He has adopted us (Romans 8:15), He has given us His Spirit (verses 16–17, 26–27), and He has determined to save us (verses 29–30).
The follow-up question, “who can be against us?” is rhetorical. It’s another way of saying, “There is no one who could possibly be more powerful than God” or “No one can destroy us.” The idea is not that we will never face opposition; it’s simply that our opposition is doomed to failure. They may be against us, but not successfully against us. Since God is on our side, we have nothing to worry about.
Romans 8:31 is an echo of other passages that say the something similar:
• Psalm 118:6 says, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
• 2 Kings 6:16: “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet [Elisha] answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”
• Psalm 56:9: “My enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.”
• Hebrews 13:6: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
• Psalm 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Sometimes our hearts respond to verses like this with consternation: “I’ll tell you who can be against me! The IRS, my in-laws, terrorists, corrupt politicians—” and the list goes on. Our real-life enemies seem to overshadow the ideas conveyed in Romans 8. Despite spiritual promises, we still have to endure physical, mental, and emotional struggles—so much so that we may wonder if God is truly for us.
The man who penned Romans 8:31 (Paul) faced the same struggles we face and many more. He lists some of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:22–28 as proof that he did not write from a plastic bubble of ethereal peace. However, his intimate relationship with the risen Christ had become his all-consuming passion. He said he considered everything else “garbage” compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7–9). He had learned the secret of contentment, whether he was celebrated or imprisoned, and he stated that secret: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, BSB).
So when Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us,” he is comparing earthly opposition to the eternal power and presence of Almighty God—and he declares the winner. No one can overcome God’s love for us.
Jesus taught the same thing. In Luke 12:4–5, Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” His point, as was Paul’s, is that, no matter what may happen to us here on earth, there is a higher reality. There is a bigger war than the one we think we face, and God is the ultimate winner (Ephesians 6:12). If we are on His side, then we will win, too (Revelation 21:7–8, 27).