As we read the list of troubles Paul mentions in verse 35 we have a description of what life was like in the early church. What did those early believers face on a daily basis? They faced tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Who were among the ‘they’? There were men, women and children; there were old and young; there were rich and poor; there were Jews and Gentiles; there were the educated and the uneducated.
One response that Paul could have had was to say to his readers that they could look forward to heaven after all their troubles were over. Obviously, for Paul to make such a comment would have been to tell the truth and to provide a way of spiritual comfort. Yet that is not what Paul says to them. Instead he informs his readers that in the present they are experiencing victory. Indeed, Paul is so sure that this is the case that he coined a new word to describe their success when he said that they were ‘more than conquerors’.
If there were any people on earth who knew about conquerors it was the people of Rome. After all, their city ruled the world and its armies were noted for great victories over strong enemies. The conquerors had their palace in Rome, and no doubt had led many victory parades along its streets. How could Paul say that Christians knew greater success than the rulers of Rome, and by extension any earthly conqueror?
I suppose we could say that the items mentioned by Paul – tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword – are like the badges that generals and others wear to show places of success. If we could ask them how they were successful in battle, they would give several reasons for the victories. Paul here gives the reason for success in the Christian conflict and he attributes it all to Jesus. He helps each one of his people in each area of spiritual conflict and ensures that they experience victory in it. Of course, it may not look like it to an onlooker, but then you need good vision to see what is actually happening.
Paul here is stressing the faithfulness of Jesus because he uses a past tense to describe his love. His love in the past included his experiences on the cross, when he went through each of the items in the list when he suffered there in behalf of his people. He knew at that time the reality of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Now he remains faithful to each of his people as each of them goes through different and difficult situations. Surely Paul is saying that when facing opposition, think of Jesus and how faithful he was and is to his people.
Christians are more than conquerors because all their enemies together cannot get rid of the permanent union that exists between Jesus and his people. Nor can they stop them in the future sharing together in the wonderful destiny that awaits them in the restored creation. All their enemies cannot reverse the decree of permanent pardon that has been announced regarding every true Christian.