How Are Christians “More Than Conquerors”?

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It’s a phrase that gets thrown around quite a bit by Christians, usually in the midst of a rah-rah speech meant to build up believers and help them gain some God-given confidence. It might sound something like, Don’t let the negatives in life get you down! You can choose to be bitter or you can choose to be better. You can rise above it all. Your end is not defeat. Your end is victory! You are more than a conqueror!

While that sounds all well and good, I’m worried that a lot of people don’t actually know what they mean when they say “you are more than a conqueror”. That’s a statement that comes from the Bible, but I fear that it might be dreadfully misused. This is the verse in full:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Any good Bible teacher will tell you that to get the meaning of a verse you first need to look at the context. So I offer up a few quick observations of the surrounding context.

1. Our victory comes through Christ.

It is significant to note that we are more than conquerors “through him who loved us”. We are not, in ourselves, conquerors. But in Christ we are. So the victory that this verse speaks of is not our own doing, but by the power of God.

2. The victory we experience is mainly an experience of God’s love.

What does the conqueror enjoy? The very next verses tell us:

[38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The word “for” at the beginning of verse 38 is key. We are more than conquerors—why? For nothing will separate us from God’s love. That is the spoil of the victor.

3. The victory comes through trials, not in the absence from them.

The verses preceding this passage set up the context of the battle we are in:

[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36] As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

So the believers here are in various severe trials, and “in all these things” they are more than conquerors. And this is where I think some Christians get it wrong. They tend to use the “more than conquerors” promise to believe that they are in control of their lives and able to defeat and escape all the challenges that come their way. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Christians are not conquerors in the absence of trials, but rather in the midst of them.

Why say “MORE than conquerors”?

So it’s safe to establish that the conquering which Christians experience is that the trials of life will never separate them from God’s love. That is the victory. So why does the verse say we are more than conquerors? Why doesn’t it just say, we are conquerors? What can be better than conquest? What’s the next level? What is the “more” promised here?

Some suggest (like those here) that being more than a conqueror simply expresses the scope of defeat. It was not a victory by a slim margin, but a total annihilation of the enemy. Just as an overmatched hockey team might lose 10-0, we also are not just victors, but victors by a long shot!

While I think that’s a valid view, it’s not what I think the verse means. Pastor John Piper offers another view which I think is very compelling. In his perspective, the difference between being a conqueror and more than a conqueror is something like this: a conqueror is one who defeats his enemies and eliminates their threat, but one who is more than a conqueror has not only defeated his enemies and eliminated their threat, but also subdues them and makes them his servants.

In the context of Christian living, this then means that the trials we face are not only defeated, but actually serve our greater good. The threat that trials bring is not only eliminated, but is turned upside down and becomes a helper. A foe becomes a friend.

Here’s a practical illustration. Say you are facing a significant trial in life. The devil’s intention with that trial is to discourage you, destroy you, and crush your faith. But because of Christ, you will not only withstand that trial (and thus be a conqueror), the trial will actually end up making you stronger as a result, and aid you in running your race with Christ (and thus be more than a conqueror). The enemy that threatened you is now that which serves your good.

This is exactly what the apostle Paul experienced in 2 Corinthians 12. He describes how he was pained with a “thorn in the flesh”. We are not told the exact nature of this “thorn”. Was it a person? A physical malady? A demonic spirit? It is up for debate. Regardless, he prayed three times for God to take it away, and each time God essentially said “no”. God’s exact response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What was Paul’s reaction to this? [9] …Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In other words, Paul looked at his trial and rather than simply trying to endure through it, he saw it as an occasion to see Christ’s power all the more. He turned a trial into an opportunity. He not only conquered, but became more than a conqueror.

This is the consistent pattern of Scripture. Trials are not just things to be endured but the chosen methods of God to grow us and build us into the people he wants us to be.

[2] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

So make no mistake about it, fellow Christian. You are more than a conqueror. No, that doesn’t mean your life will be trial free. It’s actually much better than that! Your life will be full of trials that God will use to make you a better Christian than if you had not had to go through them at all. His love, which nothing can separate you from, will be experienced all the more as the things Satan intends to take you down with are used to build you up. You don’t just defeat your enemy. You make him your servant. Such is the power of Christ for those who know him!

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