Yes. You read the title of this piece correctly. One can most certainly be separated from the love of God.
I know my saying this is jarring. You may even be prepared to quote Romans 8:38-39 to prove me wrong, but you’d be surprised to know that it is that very scripture that proves this assertion to be correct. Truth is, while God is love and God loves us all, God’s everlasting, never-ending love does not apply to everyone. Some people can become separated from God’s love. This isn’t some pious point of view I’m making up to appear superior or judgmental. I share this out of love and concern so that all will come to know the truth and examine where they stand with God. This truth is spelled out in God’s Word. The issue is most, even professed Christians, don’t venture to read it to fully understand it.
For I am persuaded…
In Roman’s 8:38-39, Paul professes 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul certainly speaks of God’s unfailing love in these verses. But when most of us quote this scripture, we often leave out a very important caveat from Romans 8:39. The phrase “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” tells us that God’s everlasting love is expressed through Jesus Christ. Further, it is important to recognize to whom Paul is uttering this reassurance – none other than those who are in Christ Jesus (aka followers of Jesus Christ aka Christians). Those who are not in Christ can and eventually will be separated from God’s love, and this can and will occur via death, unrepentant sin and false/idol worship.
Separation by Death
Paul tells us that not even death can separate those of us who are in Christ from the love of God. That’s an extremely powerful statement! It means that even after we leave the presence of this earth, we will remain in the presence of God. We will continue to abide (or live) in His love, for God IS LOVE (1 John 4:8).
To be clear, this does not mean that God does not also love those who remain in sin and even those who may reject Jesus Christ. After all, He loved us all while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). But it does mean those individuals can be eventually separated from God’s love. In John 3:16, we learn that God gave us Jesus Christ because He so loved the world (again, this applies to everyone - even while we were yet in sin). Jesus Christ is the grace of God freely made available to all mankind. For this reason, WHOSOEVER BELIEVES in Christ shall NOT perish, but have everlasting life. And since whosoever believes in Christ SHALL NOT perish, the converse is also true: Whosoever does NOT believe shall NOT have everlasting life and WILL perish. To “perish” is the opposite of everlasting life…it is everlasting death. Such a death means to be spiritually separated from God forever. Again, one who accepts the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ will continue to abide (or live) in His love, for God IS LOVE. But those who reject this grace will perish. They will die and leave the presence of this earth and ALSO leave the presence of God, which is eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Separation by Living in Sin
As with any scriptures, one must read Romans 8:38-39 understanding its context, to whom the writer is speaking and God’s ultimate will as revealed throughout scripture.
In Romans 8, Paul is speaking to newly converted Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, to reassure them of the hope they now have in Jesus Christ. As the chapter opens, Paul excellently proclaims, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). No “condemnation” means no judgment to eternal death. In other words, followers of Christ will not be subjected to the judgment of eternal destruction. (This is consistent with John 3:16 that those who believe in Christ will not perish.)
We are now clear that those who do not receive Christ will be separated from God’s love in death. Romans 8:2 makes it clear that, in addition to death, sin is another means by which one can be separated from God’s love. One who does not repent of sins through Jesus Christ remain subject to the condemnation due all sinners. Further, sin can separate mankind from God even in this life. Returning to Romans 8:38, Paul assures those in Christ that not even this life can separate us from the love of God. But those subject to the law of sin - those living in unrepentant sin - experience the effects of this separation by never receiving the spirit of God. Isaiah 59 covers a sinner’s separation from God in great detail. In verse 2 he tells us, in no uncertain terms, that not only are unrepentant sinners separated from God, God turns His back and will not even hear their prayers. This is consistent with Paul’s discussion in Romans 1 when he outlines how one becomes subject to a debased mind:
If we are set to remain in sin, it eventually triggers God’s separation and turning away from us. We can be blinded to the truth and separated from the guidance of His spirit, which ultimately means we’ve been condemned. The good news, however, is Isaiah 59 foretells of Jesus Christ, whom God would send to redeem all who would repent of their sins. The law revealed our sinful natures by giving us God’s standard and demonstrating just how much our carnality causes us to miss the mark. But through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who was our ticket of grace all along, we are promised restored peace with God and a reconciliation from separation in this life and after death.
This is why it is imperative to seek the Lord while He may be found and repent (Isaiah 55:6-7). If you know your life doesn’t live up to God’s standard, seek His guidance and correction while you still experience this conviction in your heart, as this is God’s grace. It means that God has not yet given up on you and you still have time to live in and remain in His love through Jesus Christ.
Separated by False/Idol Worship
Now, we’ve established how Christ is the key to this restored peace between God and mankind, but please know that you can’t just profess to be a Christian and be saved (Matthew 7:21). You have to repent, and once you get into God’s Word and develop a relationship with Him, your mind will be renewed and you will be converted through the Holy Spirit. You will be “born again”. Being “born again” means receiving a “new life” or becoming a "new creature" through the spirit of Jesus Christ (John 3:3). You think, see and experience life through the lens of God’s truth, which the Holy Spirit reveals to you.
Yet many will be separated from the love of God by failing to worship Him “in spirit and in truth”. This is the root of false or idol worship. Most people acknowledge the existence of a “supreme being”, a “higher power” or a “higher standard” that rules over us in life. There are even professed Christians who falsely worship God by not subjecting their lives to the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus Christ.
Instead of seeking out the true and living God, many worship idols (ex; Buddha), false representations of God (ex; Allah) or make up rules as they go (ex; Humanism; atheism; self-righteousness) rather than living by the Word of God. Again, one who worships false gods or worships God falsely is still loved by God. He still cares for them and desires for their eventual salvation (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). But even they will be separated from Him if they do not come to Him through Jesus Christ. Only He is the way, the truth and the life...no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). If you are being led by the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of God, it is impossible to worship anything but the true and living God (John 4:23-24). Thus, the Holy Spirit helps you remain in God’s love and grow in the knowledge of Him through Jesus Christ. If you follow Christ’s commandments (instructions), you will remain in His love; just as He follows God, the Father’s, commandments and remains in His love (John 14:15; 15:10).
I said all of this to say...
Yes. You most certainly can be separated from the love of God IF you are not in Jesus Christ. Death, sin and false worship were specifically mentioned as routes to this separation because they are all interrelated. If you never come to know the true and living God, you will not repent of your sins and unrepentant sinners (those who remain in their carnal states and without the Holy Spirit) are condemned from God’s Holy presence. This is why Jesus instructed His disciples to share the Gospel throughout the world and why He will not return until all have had the opportunity to receive it (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20). It is God’s will that all mankind are aware of the salvation He offers through Jesus Christ. His invitation to join His eternal peace and love is being made available to everyone. Anyone who has a heart to receive Him won't be missed, and those whose hearts will continue to reject Him won't have an excuse (John 6:39-40; Luke 14:15-20).
I felt compelled to write this piece because many, even non-believers, often profess that “God is love" usually to imply that God accepts and excuses us no matter how we live. Many see the grace behind His love as an excuse to continue to willingly live outside of or below His standard. God IS indeed love, and through His free gift of Jesus Christ to offer us salvation, He is also gracious. But His eternal love is only applicable to believers in Christ, as we are cleansed by His blood and sanctified and justified by His Spirit. All others experience His grace in this life in the hopes that they, too, will come to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus died for the sins of the whole world - no matter your sin, race, economic standing, or gender. Through one carnal man’s sin we were all sentenced to eternal separation and death. And we can see how unfair it is for us all to have to suffer because one man sinned. But this is why God was faithful and loving enough to offer us a free gift of restoration through One divine Man (Romans 5:12-21). Jesus Christ reconciles all who are in Him back to God’s love and eternal life.
Sin is living outside of the will of God. This is why sin has the power to create a separation between mankind and God. As Romans 6:23 reads, “The wages of sin is death”, or put another way, “the wages of living outside of the will of God is living outside of the presence of God forever.” But that does not have to be your fate. Romans 6:23 continues on to say, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If you want to boldly profess that NOTHING can separate you from the love of God, repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He is TRULY the ONLY way to remain in God’s love in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
With all of the peace and love God intends,