When we read a passage like Romans 8:31-35, it’s helpful to remember that “rhetorical questions” are indicatives (statements of reality) expressed in a heightened (rhetorically powerful) way.
Expressed in simple indicatives, the passage would look something like this:
If God is for us, no one can be against us.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all will surely also with him graciously give us all things.
No one shall bring any charge against God’s elect.
It is God who justifies; No one can condemn.
No one shall separate us from the love of Christ.
Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword will not separate us from the love of Christ.
But God inspired Paul to put it this more emotionally charged and lyrical way:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? . . .
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Seeing it in indicatives takes some of the punch out of it. But it does remind us that these are not mere questions, but emphatic declarations of reality in the form of rhetorical questions.
And note the form of Romans 8:32—
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
It is not just a statement, or a rhetorical question, but an argument. More specifically, it is an a fortiori argument (Latin, “from the stronger”). The idea is that if A is true, we can infer that B is even more certainly true. The argument is often expressed in the Bible as “If A, how much more B!”
Here are two examples from the lips of Jesus:
Luke 12:28, “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”
Matthew 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
The argument of Romans 8:32 is that if God did the hardest thing in the world, giving up his own Son, and if he did that as a gift for us, then it will be easy and logical for him to give us everything we need in Christ.
John Flavel (c. 1627-1691) captures the heart of this verse well:
How is it imaginable that God should withhold, after this, spirituals or temporals, from his people?
How shall he not call them effectually, justify them freely, sanctify them thoroughly, and glorify them eternally?
How shall he not clothe them, feed them, protect and deliver them?
Surely if he would not spare this own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever he should, after this, deny or withhold from his people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them.
What freedom it is to know that nothing for my ultimate good will ever be withheld because of what Christ accomplished for me on the cross. And it’s all of grace.