Charlie Sheen isn’t the only one who is winning: more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)

More than conquerors

Often I have heard people try to encourage me as I endure the storms that inevitably come my way in life. They’ll say with fist high in the air, “We are more than conquerors!” This phrase has never encouraged me because it begs the question: “if I am more than a conqueror, what else am I besides a conqueror?” The phrase originates from Romans 8:37. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Clearly Paul is talking about the power and victory we have through Jesus in this passage. Rather than tell us what “more” we are in Christ, Paul continues listing everything that we conquer through the power of God in the next verse. Maybe Paul is not telling us what we are other than conquerors but how we conquer. Let me explain.

The phrase “more than conquerors” is a translation of the Greek word hypernikaō. The prefix Hyper is usually translated “over” or “greatly.” nikaō is the verb form of the Greek word Νίκη. If that word looks familiar, the shoe company Nike gets its name from the Greek goddess of victory Νίκη.  Νίκη means “victory” and the verb means “to conquer.” Literally, then, the two Greek words in this compound word mean “to over or greatly conquer.”

While “more than conquerors” is not wrong, it is less precise. The NASB version has a better, more literal translation. “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” The New Living Translation gives a good paraphrase of this verse as well. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” And Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon renders the phrase, “We are winning a most glorious victory” (p.841).

Charlie Sheen, with all his quirks and idiosyncrasies, might just understand this type of “winning” more than most of us. According to this verse, we are winning even if it looks like we are losing badly. If we could look at the big picture, we would see that our victory over addiction or financial debt or pornography or our temper is inevitable. If Charlie Sheen puts his faith in God, he will indeed emerge victorious through the power of Christ.

We don’t merely win, however. According to Romans 8:37, we overwhelmingly conquer. What does that mean? In basketball terms, it would be like winning the game by 100 points. In football terms, it would be what happens to the Detroit Lions every Sunday. It is total dominance where the result is never in doubt. Just like some sports, the battle may last what feels like forever, but in the end, we will win easily. For instance, say the Green Bay Packers score five touchdowns in the first fifteen minutes of a game. Even though no one would doubt that they will eventually win, the game will not end until the full sixty minutes has been played. Similarly we might battle with something for years and think that it will never end, but if we persevere, we will be overwhelmingly conquer anything through the power of Jesus who loved us.

So what exactly do we overwhelmingly conquer? Paul gives one list before and one after this verse to give us an idea. Verse 35 lists the things that try to separate us from the love of Christ but will not prevail including trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Experiencing any of those things might seem like punishment or give us the impression that God does not love us, but if we put our faith in God and trust that He does love us, we will overcome these things in the end. In verses 38-39 Paul continues his list, stating “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

One last thing: notice that this verse says He “loved us” – in the past tense. Paul is not saying that Jesus stopped loving us, but he is referring back to the events which most displayed His love and gave us the victory: His death and resurrection. Every sin was overwhelmingly conquered through His death and even death and Hell were overwhelmingly conquered through His resurrection. Earlier in the chapter Paul says, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11) That means that if we are struggling with anything, we should give control over to the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, and He will help us achieve overwhelming victory over anything. Whatever you need help with, God is powerful enough to help you overcome it if you place your complete trust in Him. Then we will be truly winning.