Justification and Assurance
(g) If God Be For Us Who Can Be Against Us
Who is he that Condemneth?
In this concluding passage of Romans 8 Paul asks five unanswerable questions in relation to our assurance. Our study today examines two of these questions, which relate to the problem of sin and guilt. How can a guilty person receive peace? If we are plagued with doubts on the basis of our own sin how can we experience peace? Such questions are encompassed in these questions asked by the Apostle, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?…Who is he that condemneth?”.
1: The Judge who Condemns
According to Charles Hodge, the words “Who shall lay anything” means “Who shall summons before the bar of justice”. The words carry the thought of the judge sending out the summons to those who shall be tried. The word “charge” means simply to accuse. “Condemn” in the following verse, however, means to sentence or damn. We, therefore, get a picture of the criminal going through the various stages of law; summonsed, accused and sentenced.
The key word here is accountability. God is the judge of all men and we are answerable to him. This is something that should truly make us afraid. The prospect of standing before a holy God and being held accountable for our sins ought to strike our hearts with terror. This was how Martin Luther felt as he wrote the hymn:
“Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated!
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare my soul to meet him”.
Luther trembled as he asked himself, “How can I stand before God in the day of his judgement…what works can come from a heart like mine? How can I stand before the holiness of my Judge with works polluted at their very source?”
2: The Elect who are Justified
In v33 Paul relates his question to the elect or those chosen by God. Those who are unsaved have no comfort here because they do not have assurance that they are members of God’s chosen people. The elect are those who are part of God’s eternal purpose in that they are foreknown. predestinated, called justified and glorified. Those who have made their calling and election sure have nothing to fear where the judgement day is concerned.
The reason why the elect are secure is that we are justified. In keeping with the tone of the passage, justification introduces another legal word. The elect of God will not be summonsed to be charged and condemned. This is an impossibility because we have been justified. We have not only been pardoned but we have been made righteous by God’s justice. Therefore as a consequence of this grace we cannot be found guilty.
3: The Christ who Mediates
In v34 Paul reminds us of the ground of assurance. We are a justified people because of the person and work of Christ. We are identified with him in that he is our mediator. He represents us before the court of God in 4 ways as our advocate:
By his death. He pleads the merits of his blood which he shed for the remission of sin.
By his resurrection. As he died for us he was also raised again for us. Our eternal life is bound up with his life (Colossians 3:4). Our justification is in force because of the resurrection (Rom 4:25)
By his position at the right hand of God. At the right hand Christ is glorified. Having laid his glory aside for the purpose of dying for us he has been given that glory once more at the right hand of the Father (John 17:4-5). The right hand was the place of honour. Therefore Christ has been honoured for accomplishing the work of redemption for us. Crucially, however, Christ is seated at God’s right hand. In ancient times the work of the priests was never done, but Christ finished what they could not complete and is seated at the right hand (Hebrews 10:11-14).
By his continual intercession. Although his work of redemption is complete Christ constantly prays for us at the right hand of the Father. Whatever our needs, he knows precisely what they are and he brings our circumstances before the Father. Our needs will be met, our problems will be solved and our temptations will be overcome because we have one who prays for us without ceasing.