Romans, chapter 8, is one of the most cherished passages in the entire Bible. Especially verses 28-39 are much loved. That passage, perhaps, is well-known to you. It begins with the words, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and it concludes with the persuasion that each believer has that there is nothing that can ever “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We must be clear on God’s purpose in these verses. What is the intent of this wonderful section? The answer is that God’s purpose is that you and I, as His children, be unshakably sure that we have a rock-like certainty of our salvation, in order that we might be able to suffer well in the path of obedience to Jesus Christ.
The apostle intends to build in our hearts a security and unshakable assurance so that we might have help when we are called to suffer well in the path of obedience to Jesus Christ. Beginning in verse 28 we are given the assurance that everything works together for good to those who are called according to God’s grace and mercy. In verses 29 and 30, the apostle went on to say that we have been freely predestinated to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and that all those predestinated will also be called, justified, and glorified. He has driven the assurance of our salvation into the rock of God’s sovereign and eternal predestination.
He went on in verses 31 and 32 to teach us that no one can successfully be against us, for God has given His own Son unto our death and hell, and therefore we have the assurance that God will give us all things necessary with Christ. In verses 33 and 34 that we look at today, he goes on to say that no one can lay a charge against us in heaven or on earth, since it is Christ that died, arose, ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and now intercedes for us. No one, therefore, can condemn us.
And God’s purpose in all of this, in telling us this spectacular and breathtaking truth, is that we be filled with assurance, so that when verse 35 comes, we might be able to endure. Verse 35 reads: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Clearly, God’s purpose is not that we escape the difficulties and trials and evils of this life, but that we triumph through them. And that is the point of the passage—to assure us of the massive love of Christ and the gracious certainty of our salvation.
It may be an undiagnosable illness that has left you on your back. It may be the loss of a job. It may be fear of cancer. It may be a financial squeeze or a burden of heart, of every different shape. There is, for a child of God, no escape from these things. But there is triumph through them. The intention of the apostle is to build in us a rock-like assurance in order that when suffering comes we may suffer well, in the name of Christ, and stay ourselves in the path of obedience. God’s purpose is to deepen and make unshakable our assurance in Christ, so that we will suffer well in the path of obedience to Jesus Christ.
These things will come—these sufferings, these difficulties, these trials. They will surely come. But when they come, based upon this assurance that is in Jesus Christ, they shall not remove us from our certainty. But we shall be able to triumph through them.
This is the point, then: Security in Christ, standing upon the unshakable certainty of our salvation by grace, gives us the grace to suffer well, not to sin easily, not to sin indifferently. The certainty of salvation is not a bullet-proof vest that makes it possible for us to put ourselves into sinful ways with impunity, to party, drink, swear, live with bitterness in our hearts and unforgiveness. No! Do not say to the certainty of our salvation, “Oh, good. So, in addition to living the American dream of wealth, possessions, and the life of the world, I can also have heaven! So many in the church have a faith like that. And it is a faith that is spawned of the devil. It will not stand.
We are saved. We have the absolute certainty of our salvation, in order that we might suffer well for the sake of Christ, and continue in the path of obedience.
In verses 33 and 34 of Romans 8, the apostle is asking questions. He is on the attack. He is challenging every opponent of his salvation. We have a sense of his boldness and fearlessness. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died…. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” He gives questions but he intends us to furnish the answers. He expects the answers to be obvious. He wants to draw us into this. He wants us to be engaged.
Notice these questions. Both of them deal with the issue of our justification before God. Both of them are asking the question: “Is there anything or anyone out there who can stand up before God and say that there is yet guilt, guilt of our sins before Him?” “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” “Who is he that condemneth?” Can anyone bring a suit, can anyone charge the supreme court of God, can anyone come and say, “There is yet unforgiven sin that belongs to us”? Who is he that condemneth? Who is he that shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? So the questions deal with the reality of our justification before God. They are intended to emphasize and underscore that we have been justified in the precious work of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing that can be found to condemn us before the presence of God.
Notice with me also that, in the question, the focus is on the one who has justified us. We read: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” Then we read, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” The emphasis falls upon the One who has done this work for us. It is God. It is Christ. The effect, then, of the challenge is this: Universe, and all inhabitants, all humanity, Satan, demons, all who would stand up before God to condemn, who among you can possibly condemn us, for it is God, it is Christ, who has justified us?
We must listen very carefully to this. There are many voices that will arise also within us to condemn us, to indict us, and to say that we cannot possibly be forgiven and be a child of God. We look at the testimony of our own conscience, as the Holy Spirit works within us and we see much sin. And then there is the Devil. And no doubt the apostle Paul has the Devil in mind. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are being oppressed by Satan in our thoughts, in our feelings. We might be performing a mindless task and suddenly Satan is at work, not just tempting, but trying to infiltrate our thinking, and oppressing us, and saying, “But look at yourself. How can it possibly be true that you are saved, that Christ would love you, that your sins are forgiven?” And the apostle, the Holy Spirit in this Scripture, means to teach us that we must get blunt with the Devil, that we must be bold, that we must be courageous. We must say, “Listen here, Devil, little Satan. You are bringing a charge against me? You are pointing out how it is impossible for me to be forgiven? It is God, it is Christ. God has pronounced my pardon and my righteousness in the blood of Christ. It is a settled matter before God. You could stir up the whole world to kill me. But God has declared me righteous and justified.”
The apostle points us to Christ’s triumph as the reason why no one can condemn us. Notice, there are four aspects here of the work of Christ in verse 34. Those four aspects of the work of Jesus Christ are His death, His resurrection, His being seated at the right hand of God, and then, at last, His presence there of making intercession for us. We read: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
Now any one of those works of Jesus Christ would be enough to establish that there is no condemnation for us. All four of them make it massive. And note with me that they are arranged in a certain order—that the one that is given after each one is yet greater than the one before. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” Can there be anything more important than that? Well, the apostle says, “Yea, rather,” even more, “that is risen again.” The resurrection is even more clear in its proof that there is no condemnation. And then we would say, “We cannot imagine anything greater for us than that Jesus arose from the dead.” Up from the grave He arose! we sing. But Paul says, “Who is even at the right hand of God!” And then we would say, “Well, how can anything be added to that? Our crucified, risen Savior is at the right hand of God controlling all things, therefore there can be nothing that can be against me or condemn me. Nothing can add to that.” And the apostle says, “Who also maketh intercession for us.” All of these things, now, are building. And all of them combined prove beyond any doubt that there is no possibility of condemnation against the child of God.
And then, I want you to notice that in all of these things the focus is on Christ. We have the list here of the mighty deeds of Jesus Christ by which He has triumphed over our sin and condemnation. It is Christ. These words imply a personal knowledge of faith in Him. These words imply the wondrous grace of God whereby we have been united to Jesus Christ by a true and living faith, that we believe in Him, that we know Him. And, looking to Him and His matchless work, we say there is no condemnation for us before God.
Let us look at those four wonderful works, if only briefly.
It is Christ that died. We see Him, by faith, crucified upon Calvary’s cross. We see the crown of thorns upon His head. We see His back raw and bloody. We see Him descending down into the bowels of death. We see the cross as the platform from which He stepped out into the eternity of God’s wrath, into the darkness and torment of eternal punishment that our sin deserved. Paul’s words imply His perfect and amazing willingness. We read, “He gave himself.” Literally, we read, “He gave himself to death.” He did not get caught up in a tragic train of events. He was not simply swept along to the cross. He gave Himself to all of these things, willingly, sacrificially. He said in John 10:18, “I lay down my life. No man takes it from me. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Deliberately, knowing all for whom He would suffer, He gave Himself willingly. And He did so because of the eternal love of God (Rom. 5:8): “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
Then we read of the resurrection: “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” Is risen again means that God raised Him. He died willingly. Yea, rather, He is raised by God. He is raised by (Rom. 6:4) the glory of God the Father. It means that the Father looked upon the grave of His Son. And what did the Father feel? He felt satisfaction in what His Son had achieved upon the cross. He saw His Son’s work upon the cross as a perfect work. He saw that guilt and curse and judgment had been forever removed through His sacrificial sin-bearing. And God raised Him up. God said, “Well done. It is over. It is finished. You are worthy of life as the Head of the church. You do not belong in the grave. Rise up, My Son!”
Then we read, “It is Christ who died, who is risen, who is even at the right hand of God.” That means that He was brought by God personally to the place of absolute authority and power. All His enemies have been subdued beneath His feet (Eph. 1:21). He has been crowned with glory and honor; angels, principalities, and powers being made subject to Him (I Pet. 3:21). Jesus rules. We talk of health-care, the Middle East, the economy, cancer, nerve endings, gall-bladders, special needs children. Jesus rules. Rules over all things for the good of the church.
And then, number four: It is Christ who also maketh intercession for us. This Christ that died was raised by God the Father. Now, at the right hand of God, it is Jesus who rules over all things. And He makes intercession for us. We might ask, “Now if all the work of our salvation is done upon the cross and in the resurrection, why do we need an intercessor?” The answer is that today, and every day, a glorious moment happens. Jesus does something for us. He does not add to the ground of our salvation. He does not reappear upon the earth in order to suffer so that we might have salvation. He does not try to enhance that salvation. But everyday Jesus presents a perfect salvation, accomplished once in His cross and resurrection, before the Father, as being complete. And God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit smile.
Then there is a cry of a child of God on the earth. And in an instant, on eagle’s wings, grace is given to everyone who cries to God in the blood of Jesus Christ. This is very personal. Paul says, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” Are you one of the elect? Paul says in verse 34, “Who also maketh intercession for us.” Are you one of the “us”? It is by grace through faith. And faith in Jesus Christ cherishes these words of God. Faith loves the work of Christ. Faith lives in the work of Christ. Faith trusts the work of Christ. And faith is ready, ready now, to obey, to follow Christ, and to suffer well in obedience to Christ.
In faith, hearing what God has done, I can lie down in sleep and rest in the midst of trial and sorrow, pain and uncertainty, doubt and fear, and I can say, “If God be for me, who can be against me?”
I have read, recently, of a pastor who wrote of his experience when a member of his congregation committed suicide. The man who committed suicide was a family-man with four children and a wife. And the pastor asked himself, “What possessed this man to do such a thing?” And after much prayer and struggle, he came to the answer that it was not what possessed the man that caused him to take his life. But it was what he did not possess, what he did not apprehend. He did not apprehend all that God is for us in Christ.
This is why you were created. This is what it means to live. To know God and to enjoy Him forever, to know God’s deep, deep love in Jesus that has justified us in His presence. To know all that is in Christ, by grace alone, is given to us in order that now we may go and we may obey and we may suffer well in the path of obedience, in the perfect security that is in Christ.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word. We pray that it may be bound this day upon our heart. In Jesus’ name do we pray, Amen.