According to Romans 8:37 we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” While studying this passage with a class I taught, the question came up: How is it possible to be more than a conqueror? We understand what if means to win against an opponent, but how is it possible to do more than win? The Allies conquered Germany and Japan during World War II so completely that they had to surrender unconditionally. But despite such a total victory, the Allies did not do anything more than just conquer them.
What then does Romans 8:37 mean when it says that against all the sufferings and difficulties we encounter—and some of these are listed in verses 35, 37–38—we not only come off as winners but that we do more than win? We concluded that the answer to this question comes from what is said a few verses earlier. According to Romans 8:28, “God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” The “all things” spoken of in this verse refer to the various sufferings that life brings. Ever since verse 18, Paul has been talking about how Christians are involved in the sufferings of this present world. But unlike others who encounter life’s disappointments and catastrophes, Christians look forward to a time of freedom, when they will be delivered from all these sufferings (vss. 19–25). In the meantime, however, God helps them to endure these sufferings through the Holy Spirit (vss. 26–27). So when Paul says in verses 28 that God works all things together for good, he means that all the sufferings encountered in this life are turned around so they become benefits.
In other words, God enables Christians to do more than just keep sufferings at bay, under control so that they do not overwhelm us. If that were all that God did, we would simply be conquerors. But God takes the sufferings which, in themselves, are stumbling blocks and turns them into stepping-stones that lead to blessings. Thus Christians are not only victorious over sufferings; they are also more than conquerors in that he turns the sufferings, which in themselves bring pain and misery and portend a bleak future, around so that they become allies which work to bring us to a bright tomorrow.
I once knew a graduate of West Point who fought in the Korean War. While visiting in our home one evening, he showed slides that he had taken in actual combat. One picture showed an enemy pillbox before his mortars zeroed in on it. The next picture showed what was left of the pillbox after his mortars had devastated it. “Here the enemy position is neutralized,” he said in the technical jargon of military science. By “neutralizing” the pillbox he had merely conquered it. The pillbox was no longer a threat to his platoon. But he was not “more than” a conqueror of it, because that pillbox was not now providing any positive support to his platoon by joining with it to help it advance.
The victory which Christ wins for us, however, is not one in which the enemy, consisting in life’s sufferings, is merely neutralized. To the contrary, Christ wins such a victory that the stumbling blocks of suffering become the necessary stepping-stones for achieving blessings. “God works all sufferings together into good” would be a better rendering of this text. It is because God so works sufferings into positive blessings that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
But notice that God does this for those who love him. We will enjoy this great blessing of being “more than” conquerors only if we meet the condition of loving God. We show our love for God by banking our hope on his promises. To be specific, when trouble overtakes us, we love God by resting on his promise in Romans 8:37 that he will make us more than conquerors. Loving God means delighting in how valuable his is when he does what he promised to do for us. God will certainly not turn sufferings from stumbling blocks into stepping-stones if we persist in being cast down by adversity.
Daniel P. Fuller